The rate of flu consultations in the North has declined week-on-week for the first time since Christmas but health chiefs have warned against complacency despite signs this year's influenza outbreak is on the wane.
On Thursday the Public Health Agency (PHA) confirmed that the number of GP consultations for people with flu-like symptoms fell from 65.2 per 100,000 population in the second week of 2018, to 52.1 per 100,000 population in week 3, which covered January 15 to January 21.
Equally, the number of flu detections in hospital wards decreased from a total of 273 detections in week 2, to 230 in week 3.
There were 14 cases reported in Intensive Care Units (ICU) with laboratory confirmed influenza in week 3 giving a total of 64 cases this season to date.
And three deaths were reported in week 3 among ICU patients bringing the total deaths in ICU with confirmed influenza to 11.
Despite the positive indications of a decline, Dr. Jillian Johnston, said: “We may have seen a reduction in the prevalence of flu last week, but we shouldn’t become complacent. The fact remains that people are still falling ill with flu, so we should all take steps to prevent its spread.
"Colds and flus can be very similar, but flu tends to be more severe.
“Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include a fever, aching body, chesty cough, headache, diarrhoea or nausea. When you have the flu you will feel exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal.
"Cold symptoms affect mainly your nose and throat, it will make you feel unwell, but you're ok to carry on as normal.
“You can often treat the flu without seeing your GP and should begin to feel better in about a week.”
Dr. Johnston asked people to take the usual steps if they catch the flu or cold: rest up, drink plenty of fluids, blow your nose – catch it, bin it, kill it, wash hands regularly, and clean hard surfaces.
Dr Johnston added: “Getting the free flu vaccine can help protect you against flu. Everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated against flu should see it as a positive step in protecting their health and the health of others around them.”
For most people flu will have resolved within a week – if not you should contact your GP. If you are in an at-risk group, you may be more susceptible to serious illness and should therefore contact your GP earlier if you have a high temperature or shortness of breath for advice.
For further information on how to help yourself stay well this winter visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/stay-well