What is the Japanese Flu and what are its symptoms? The new illness sweeping through the UK

Laura Hampson

It seems flu season is here to stay, since a strain of ‘Japanese flu’ is set to follow the Australian one.

As we previously reported, the Aussie flu or H3N2 is one of the strains of flu circulating this year and now it has been joined by the Japanese flu.

Both types of flu originated in their namesake countries and have travelled intercontinentally. The Japanese flu is currently reported to be spreading in Greater Manchester.

Here's everything you need to know about the new strain.

What is Japanese flu?

Dr Steve Iley, Medical Director for Bupa UK told the Standard: "Also known as Yamagata flu, Japanese flu is a strand of influenza. Symptoms are similar to other flu and may include a high temperature or fever along with coughing, sneezing and a runny nose. People can also experience muscle aches and pains along with exhaustion and fatigue.

"Symptoms will typically last for up to one week, but you can speed up your recovery by getting plenty of rest, while staying warm and hydrated. Ibuprofen or paracetamol can also help manage the aches and pains."

How is this different from the Australian flu?

Japanese flu a strand of influenza B meaning that it only affects humans. Other types of flu – including the Australian flu – are strands of influenza A.

Dr Iley explained: "This means they can affect other animals like birds, helping them spread quicker. It’s unusual for influenza B to spread to pandemic levels."

Is the Japanese flu more contagious than the Aussie flu?

While it is more contagious, the symptoms are typically much less severe than the Australian flu.

Dr Iley added: "Japanese flu is easily spread amongst children as their immune systems excrete more of the virus. Likewise, their hand washing and personal hygiene is less thorough, making them ‘super spreaders’, and helping Japanese flu spread more quickly than Australian flu."

What can you do to avoid getting the Japanese flu?

Dr Iley offers three ways to contain the spread of Japanese flu: "For children under eight, the best prevention will be from the widely available flu nasal spray. Only the spray covers Yamagata, the jab does not. However by vaccinating children – who are the biggest spreaders of the virus – we’re preventing the germs being passed on to other groups. It is still worth getting the jab if you are an adult as this can help minimise symptoms should you get the flu.

"Secondly, be sure to wash your hands properly and regularly, especially before eating. It’s a good idea to carry around some hand sanitiser, especially if you’re catching public transport or if you’re in close contact to a lot of people. Flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours.

"Finally, if you do get the flu then be sure to stay home. Resting will help you recover quicker, and it will also help prevent the flu from spreading further. Flu viruses can only live on a tissue for about 15 minutes, so use tissues and bin them as quickly as possible, again regularly washing your hands."

If you do get the flu, symptoms should pass on their own within a week but if you're in a high risk group (very old or very young, pregnant or hav
e other chronic medical conditions) then your GP may be able to give you anti-flu medicine.