Rise of the ‘super cold’: why everyone is ill and not necessarily with Covid-19

If you have noticed a rise in people getting the lurgy, your suspicions are correct. The majority of us will either have first-hand experience of getting ill, or know someone who has been hit with flu-like symptoms yet testing negative for coronavirus.

Now a doctor has explained why plenty of Brits are falling ill, despite being officially in spring and the cold winter months blurring into a distant memory. Medical professionals are also warning about the most prolific bugs and the symptoms you need to look out for.

There are top four nasty bugs that are currently doing the rounds. The ‘super cold’, flu, norovirus and coronavirus have the potential to make people severely ill, especially those who might be in the vulnerable category.

Here are the biggest bugs going around at the moment as reported by Yorkshire Live and how these illnesses can be treated.

The ‘super cold’

This is used to describe those with Covid-like symptoms but who test negative for the virus. Doctor Ollie Hart, a GP at Sloan Medical Center in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, said: “In our practice, I think we have seen an increase in people coming in with flu or cold-like symptoms.

“It’s felt like more than usual for this time of year and there seems to be quite a high occurrence. But my gut feeling is that this is coming from people mixing with no barriers again.

“People are mixing and spreading bugs they haven’t for a while. We’ve been protected from that over the past few years’ and our immune systems aren’t quite used to it.

“We’re seeing the usual range of symptoms – sore throats, runny noses, coughs, diarrhoea. It’s just almost concentrated at the moment now everyone is mixing with no restrictions.”

If you have any of those symptoms, he advised people’s first port of call should always be their pharmacists before heading to the doctors. Sufferers are also advised to take some time off to take care of themselves and recover if needed.

But crucially he said: “People shouldn’t panic. We have almost forgotten what it’s like to have an ordinary cough or cold that’s not Covid.

“If you are clinically vulnerable or have a chronic health condition, you should take a bit more care but for most people, we need to remember common sense about managing ordinary day-to-day illnesses. This is a normal part of life.

“There isn’t a plague running around. Having simple bugs is an ordinary fact of life.”

Flu

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) publishes a weekly surveillance report on incidence of influenza and Covid in the UK. Flu is usually associated with the colder months, but doctors have said we’re seeing a slightly later flu season than normal this year.

As per the most recent report from March 24, UKHSA said “influenza activity is low but increasing.” The previous week’s report states that there have been slight increases in hospital and intensive care admissions for flu recently.

From March 17 to March 24, influence positivity increased from 1.6 per cent to 2.5 per cent. Out of 2,574 people who completed UKHSA’s FluSurvey in the week leading up to March 24, 7.9 per cent of people reported having a fever or a cough and 2.4% reported influenza-like illness.

This is a slight increase on the week before, when the figures were 5.5 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively. The FluSurvey also found there has been an increase in people’s self-reported daily contact rates.

Related to influenza is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) – which came back in force this January. This causes mild cold symptoms, but can have a larger impact on young babies.

The UKHSA advised anyone who noticed reduced feeding or breathlessness in young children to phone their GP or 111.

Norovirus

There’s another bug that’s going around too – the Norovirus, a stomach bug that can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. The NHS lists its main symptoms as being or feeling sick and suffering from diarrhoea.

People should also watch out for aching limbs, high temperatures and headaches. As per the latest UKHSA report on Norovirus, it is increasing across the country.

From week nine to week 10 of 2022, reports of virus outbreaks doubled. Outbreaks started in educational settings and then became worse in care homes towards the end of February.

There were 40 outbreaks seen in the week beginning February 14 and it has continued to increase into March. Professor Saheer Gharbia, Gastrointestinal Pathogens and Food Safety Directorate, UKHSA, said: “Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, has been at lower levels than normal throughout the pandemic.

“But, as people have begun to mix more, the number of outbreaks have started to increase again. Symptoms include sudden onset of nausea, projectile vomiting and diarrhoea.

“Symptoms can also include a high temperature, abdominal pain and aching limbs. Stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms and do not return to work or send children to school or nursery until 48-hours after symptoms have cleared.

“Please avoid visiting elderly relatives if you are unwell – particularly if they are in a care home or hospital. As with Covid-19 and other infectious illnesses, hand-washing is really important to help stop the spread of this bug, but remember, unlike for Covid-19, alcohol gels do not kill off norovirus so soap and water is best. “

Coronavirus

Unfortunately Covid is still very much here – and cases are currently increasing too. Even if you have tested negative using a lateral flow, Doctor Ollie advised anyone with Covid symptoms to get a PCR to be sure.

As per the latest Government data, the number of positive Covid tests reported in the seven days up to March 24 has risen by 14.5% compared to the previous seven days. 612,084 people tested positive in the last week.

The Omicron variant has two sub-variants – BA.1 and BA.2 that have been detected in recent weeks. The WHO said studies have shown the BA.2 variant appears to be “inherently more transmissible” than BA.1 and cases of it are increasing in relation to other variants of Omicron.

UKHSA said in its most recent report: “Increases may be attributable to a range of factors, including the gradual increase in social contacts over recent weeks (as seen in FluSurvey self-reported daily contact rates), the ending of legal requirements for self- isolation and increased transmissibility of the BA.2 variant. “

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