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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Lauren Harte

GP on the latest bugs spreading across Northern Ireland and what symptoms to look out for

Many people are getting ill at the moment and it can't all be explained by the coronavirus.

Alongside the common respiratory viral infection which sees a rise in case numbers across Northern Ireland at this time of year, there's another bug that's going around too.

More of us are being struck down with a form of gastroenteritis, a very common condition that causes diarrhoea and vomiting.

Read more: GP on the symptoms to look out for amid Covid autumn wave

It's usually caused by a bacterial or viral tummy bug and affects people of all ages, but is particularly common in young children.

In older children and adults, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) may cause a cough or cold, but in young children it can cause bronchiolitis, which in some cases can be dangerous.

Leading Northern Ireland GP, Dr Alan Stout has outlined what symptoms you need to look out for and how they can be treated.

The Belfast GP and chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee in Northern Ireland, told Belfast Live: "There's definitely quite a lot of RSV, which includes colds and coughs and normally affects children but we're seeing it in adults too at the moment.

"That tends to see more cold-like symptoms and we're also seeing a slow and trending increase in cases of flu but not in huge or concerning numbers yet.

"There are more cases of vomiting and diarrhoea in the practice over the past few weeks amongst both children and adults but there are no alerts or particular trends just yet or a formal diagnosis."

He added: "The symptoms we're seeing include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, a high temperature which are similar to gastroenteritis or the Norovirus.

"The thing is once you get one virus starting to circulate, what happens is that it drags people's immune systems down and they're more prone to picking up other things. You do tend to get these patterns of two or three things circulating at any one time."

Dr Stout said the rise in cases is linked to people mixing with no barriers again and after the recent reopening of schools.

"Year on year in general practice we always know that the second and third week of September are going to be difficult because schools go back and they share all the bugs amongst each other and bring them home as well.

"We have all been so protected for the past couple years due to the pandemic so we are seeing bugs spreading in a way they haven't for a while due to the various measures that were in place whenever Covid was at its worst.

"We've been protected from that over the past few years so our immune systems aren't quite used to it," he added.

"There's absolutely no need to panic as self-limiting viral infections are just part of life. They do tend to get better in the vast majority of cases through self-medication and treatment by taking paracetamol or ibuprofen and plenty of fluids.

"Your pharmacist is the next useful port of call after that or your GP if you're becoming very unwell."

More than one million flu and Covid-19 vaccinations are to be offered to people in Northern Ireland this winter and Dr Stout is also urging those eligible to avail of the service.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) said the winter vaccination campaign will help protect those most at risk from respiratory illnesses.

The programme is being implemented using a combination of GPs, community pharmacies and health and social care trusts, with the majority of vaccinations expected to be administered by GPs and community pharmacies.

The Covid-19 autumn booster is being offered to people at higher risk from coronavirus.


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