As the cold weather sets in, it is time to start thinking about how to protect yourself and your loved ones against the flu.

While most people are able to fully recover from a flu, it can cause long-term harm or it can be deadly to those who are more vulnerable.

One of the serious flu strains circulating this year is the Aussie flu. It has been named as such because there has recently been an outbreak in Australia which has caused a lot of problems.

While there have not been a significant number of Aussie flu cases in the UK, there are fears there could be a similar outbreak here.

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Most people will recover from a flu. Photo: Pixabay

What is Aussie flu?

Aussie flu, also known as H3N2, is just one of a number of different strains of flu circulating the country this winter. It is not new and was around last winter too.

There are three types of influenza virus - A, B and C - and the Aussie flu comes under the most serious type A.

There have been at least 118 deaths in Australia this year as a result of the H3N2 virus, according to the latest report by the Australian Government's Department of Health. Over the year, the flu strain has been found most commonly in people aged 85 and older.

Most people with Aussie flu will recover in about a week and won't need any specific treatment. But for more vulnerable people, like children, the elderly or people with pre-existing health conditions, it can be deadly.

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Stock image of virus particles. Photo: Pixabay

How do I know if I've got it?

The Health and Safety Executive has said people tend to recover from a normal flu after seven days. So if you are still ill after a week, you could have something more serious.

You should go and see a GP or other health professional as a first step to getting a diagnosis.

Some common flu symptoms, not specific to H3N2, include:

  • fever (temperature above 38C)
  • aches
  • tiredness or exhaustion
  • dry, chesty cough
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • tummy pain or diarrhoea
  • nausea and being sick

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One of the symptoms of flu is a fever. Photo: Pixabay

How effective is the flu jab against Aussie flu?

The flu vaccines we have now tend to work better against influenza B and influenza A (H1N1) viruses than H3N2, according to US experts at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found the vaccine, when tested in animals and humans, did a partial job of protecting against this strain of flu.

It was 20-30 per cent effective against H3N2, according to the journal.

However, experts say this is still our best defence against the virus and the vaccine still offers valuable protection against the flu.

Who is eligible for a free flu jab?

Those eligible for a free flu jab on the NHS include:

  • over 65s
  • pregnant women
  • people with a health condition that puts them at risk (e.g. asthma or a weakened immune system)
  • people living in a long-stay care facility, and the main carer for an elderly or vulnerable person
  • Children aged two and three years on August 31, and primary school children

A flu nasal spray is available free to young children, who are thought to be the main spreaders of flu.

Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine, but it is the employer's responsibility to arrange and pay for this vaccine.

You may also be able to get the vaccine for free at your GP surgery or pharmacy if you are frontline health or social care worker employed by a care home, homecare company or hospice.

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Those who are eligible for a free flu jab are encouraged to take up the offer. Photo: Pixabay

Where do I get a flu jab and how much does it cost?

You can get your free flu jab from your local GP. Some pharmacies may offer free jabs to those who are eligible.

If you are not eligible for a free jab, you can go to the following pharmacies or supermarkets and pay pay a small sum. Here's how much the vaccine costs:

Superdrug

One jab will cost £6.99, while a course will cost £9.99. The course is for children under nine who have not previously been vaccinated against influenza and will need a second booster dose.

These are special early bird prices for non-members. After November 5, the single jab for members will be £6.99 while non-members will have to pay £9.99

You can just walk into a Superdrug store for jab or call to book an appointment. More information here.

Lloyds

The pharmacy's website says flu jabs cost £11.50.

You don't have to make an appointment but you are advised to ring ahead of time to check availability.

You can also make your vaccination prescription order online ahead of your visit with Lloyds' Online Doctor service. More information here.

Boots

The website says the flu jab will cost £12.99.

You can book an appointment in-store or online. Appointments for children aged 11 to 15 can only be booked in selected stores. More information here.

Tesco

The vaccination costs £10 at selected pharmacies, according to its website.

You can make an appointment or receive a jab straight away after filling in a short questionnaire.

You must be over 18, not pregnant or breast-feeding and be in good health.

Asda

Asda is offering the flu jab for just £7. You'll need to make an appointment. More information here.