The Director of Public Health has identified an outbreak of influenza A in Gibraltar, both on a ward in the hospital and in the community.
Over the last 2 years Gibraltar has had very low levels of circulating influenza, likely as a result of reduced social mixing and good respiratory hygiene. It is unusual for influenza cases to increase this late in the year, which means that whilst the seasonal flu vaccine administered last autumn was very effective, the level of immunity that it offered is now waning. Whilst influenza is unpleasant, most people will recover within a week. However, it can be a serious illness for the very young and the elderly.
Influenza has very similar symptoms to COVID-19: high temperature, cough, blocked nose, muscle aches, sore throat and tiredness. Individuals who experience these symptoms but test negative for COVID-19 may have influenza A and should stay at home until 24 hours after fever is gone. Those with influenza symptoms should not visit Elderly Residential Services or St Bernard’s Hospital: to do so would put vulnerable relatives and friends at unnecessary risk.
Over-the-counter treatments such as paracetamol can be used to reduce temperature and treat influenza symptoms. Please do not proactively seek a test for influenza. The GHA will only test for influenza at the Primary Care Centre and St Bernard’s Hospital in cases where confirmation of the diagnosis may alter clinical treatment, i.e. if the individual is very young or very old.
The Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, said: ‘This is a reminder that there are a number of respiratory infections, other than COVID-19, that can easily spread and cause severe illness for the most vulnerable in society. If you test negative for COVID-19 but have heavy systematic symptoms such as a fever is important that you:
- remain at home for 24 hours after the fever has come down;
- do not visit vulnerable relatives and loved ones, particularly in ERS and the hospital.
This is because you are increasing the risk of transmitting influenza onto someone who may be at increased risk of developing severe disease. For most people flu is unpleasant but they will usually recover within a week without any longer term health effects.’