Influenza - The Facts.

Written by Nurse Practitioner Diane Lewis

Although it is a very common illness, there is a lot of confusion about influenza, commonly called Flu. Did you know that there are several different types of influenza?

This blog will discuss SEASONAL flu.


FACT: The flu season occurs at different times of the year depending on where you are in the world. In the UK this is usually during the Winter months and commonly between November – March

FACT: Flu is a respiratory illness it does not cause diarrhoea & vomiting commonly known as ‘stomach flu’. This is caused by Gastroenteritis. However, sometimes children & occasionally adults can have these symptoms with seasonal flu.

FACT: Flu is spread by infected people by droplet infection when they are coughing or sneezing. It can live on surfaces like tables, doorknobs, phones, taps etc. for 24 hours. So, can be easily spread.

FACT: There are three different types that cause seasonal flu - two of which can cause serious illness in humans. These are classified as types A, B & C.

Influenza A

Type A influenza is usually responsible for the majority of seasonal flu cases. It is found in humans and in animals. There are many different varieties of influenza A that are classified into subtypes - H and N - and even further into different strains.

Influenza B

Type B is another type of flu that causes seasonal illness. It is found only in humans. Influenza B has the potential to be very dangerous, but it is typically less severe than influenza A. It does not cause pandemics. There are different strains of influenza B, but they are not sub-typed.

Influenza C

Type C flu, which affects only humans, is much milder than types A and B. It typically causes mild respiratory illnesses and it is not known to have caused any seasonal flu epidemics. Most people who contract influenza C will know that they have some strain of the flu virus because symptoms are like those of a cold. There is no vaccination available for type C.


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5 Steps To a Healthy and Happy Commute by Bike

By Sophie Taylor

It’s nearly 20 years on since the government began its Cycle to Work Scheme in 1999, and the benefits of commuting by bike are now well known. Switching from burning fossil fuels to burning calories often makes for a faster and more cost efficient commute, whilst helping to keep your mind, body and the environment healthy and happy. Yet making the transition can be daunting, especially if you don’t know where to start - so here are 5 steps you can take to start reaping the benefits of commuting by bike with confidence…

  1. Transport for London Cycle Skills Courses.

    If you really are a beginner, or are nervous about tackling the beast that is London traffic, then check out Transport for London’s Cycle Skills Courses. These are free (or heavily subsidised) tailored courses offered by local councils, ranging from basic to advanced cycle skills training. You must live, work, or study in the borough in which you take your course. These are definitely worth taking advantage of if you’re in need a confidence boost, whatever level you’re at.

    In Richmond upon Thames a 90 minute cycle session costs £10:

    And in these boroughs the sessions are free:





2.       Google Maps your route.

Apple Maps doesn’t have a bicycle option, so Google Maps is your best bet for scoping out the most bike-friendly route to work. Google Maps takes account of cycle paths and subway routes, and with these accounted for you may be surprised at how much time you can actually shave off your commute. Usually Google will offer a number of different options, so it could be a good idea to have a trial run to work out which one you’re happiest with.

3.       Protect your bike

Make sure you’re invested in a strong D lock, rather than a cable that can be easily cut with pliers. It’s also worth registering your bike at, so that in the unfortunate event your bike is stolen, it will be much easier for the Police to find. BikeRegister adds your bike details to the police national database, and you can even purchase a Security Marking kit to deter thieves.

4.       Prepare for the weather

As we head into the colder months, London weather can be unforgiving, but that doesn’t have to deter you from getting on the saddle. Make sure to pack a change of clothes, and see if your workplace has a shower to get you clean, warm and refreshed. Buying a mudguard will protect you from the road spray from your wheels, and can help you avoid getting completely soaked in wet weather. Waterproof gloves are also a worthwhile accessory for keeping your hands and fingers protected on the handlebars.

2.       Ensure your safety

Likewise, as it gets darker, it’s important to be seen. It’s a legal requirement to have a white front light and a red rear light on your bike before sunrise and after sunset. You could even get a light to put on your helmet, to make you extra visible from either side if you’re braving roundabouts and junctions on your commute.


Top Ten Tips for the Lone Traveller

By Clare Lower

Many people under 25 now travel extensively throughout the world, Europe and beyond for 2-6 months at a time, and often travel alone. The ‘Gap Year’ involving work experience has subtly changed into an epic adventure involving cheap hostels and economy flights meeting up with like-minded travellers and going off where the wind and sun beckons, because they can!

As a Practice Nurse I tend to be able to spot these young people from 12 paces away. The problem they have yet to appreciate is that they are neither invincible nor are they immune to crime and petty violence which is rife and whilst it is often not life threatening it can end in them ruining this once in a life time experience.

I have compiled a little list of ‘suggestions’ for those intrepid discoverers, just in case they don’t know absolutely everything….. Pick your moment they may hear some of them.

1) Have a designated non-drinker.

Or at least one of your party who will only drink in moderation. Change the person each evening, draw straws as you would hopefully do for driving in UK. They are responsible for the others ‘backs’, nothing is quite as enticing to a hungry local as a group of legless Europeans with their riches ripe for the picking, from trainers to phones, cameras to cash. When drunk our perception of danger disappears and we behave socially and morally in a very different way. Do not climb on balconies, known as balcony-hopping. This European fad is one of the major causes of serious injury or death, after drowning and road traffic accidents to UK travellers.

2) Take Condoms bought from the UK.

Whilst on my moral high ground many of us become more casual about sex.  It’s likely to happen, sex with a stranger and huge regrets the next day as you claw through the memory fog of a throbbing hangover as to What? Where? and Who with? and did you actually?….remain unanswered questions.

There are two tests which make a condom safe to use, the Kitemark and the CE-Mark. The advice is that you only use condoms which have BOTH these marks on them. Condoms obviously have a number of benefits, which hopefully I don’t need to list here.

3) No Tattoos or Piercings.

Not even a tiny one on your bottom! HIV is a real threat and you have absolutely no control over the sterility of the equipment used. If for some reason, see section one and two above…. You wake up with this little embellishment, seek help, in fact….go home!

4) Scooters.

Around Asia this really is the only way to get about other than Taxis.  They are potential death traps. Being burnt on the leg in Thailand from the exhaust of a scooter is now so common it is known as the Thailand Tattoo.

 As stated, Road Traffic Accidents account for the majority of injuries and deaths to travellers. My advice to you is to ask yourself, can you ride a scooter in the UK? If you cant or wouldn’t why do you think you can abroad? I suggest a short course in the UK before you travel, as although we have no control over other road users this may actually save your life. If you couldn’t drive a car in England you probably wouldn’t use one abroad.

5) Bus Travel

The easiest way to cover the miles to your next adventure is to use local or long distance buses. Many hours can be spent travelling whilst abroad for a lengthy period of time and inevitably you will need to sleep at some stage.  To reduce your vulnerability during this time it is advisable to take a Bungee cord or two to wrap around your leg and your luggage handles or the chair legs. Although there is nothing to stop people cutting this off you whilst you are unaware the majority of thefts are opportunistic and the slightest difficulty in removing the bag may be enough to dissuade the greedy thief.  Sleep with your phone, passport and any money actually next to your body using a waist belt.

6) Transfer

When you’ve reached your next destination after a 10-12 hour bumpy journey you will be tired and very vulnerable.  You may be trying to shake off the effects of a sleeping tablet you took in order to get some rest during the journey. Remember as you get off the bus there will be many ‘taxis’ and other dubious modes of transport with locals very keen to help you to your hostel. These should be treated with enormous caution. You rarely have any idea where you are heading but you can be inadvertently whisked off with promises to help,  ending in your belongings being removed from your person, leaving you, at best, sitting in a deserted alley wondering what to do next. One hint is to prebook your hostel and if possible speak to them beforehand as they will give you names of reputable taxi firms and or directions to the hostel. South America is probably the biggest culprit for this. Thailand is more Western and Traveller friendly.

7) First Aid Kits

A very common accident you may incur is a simple laceration that will need stiches. It is wise to travel with a sterile first aid kit. There are many on the market but Life offer a suitable pack for £19.99, which has a suture and needles and syringes, what I call the ‘hardware’. I’m not suggesting that your fellow travellers practice their needlework skills on you but this is excellent to take with you to a local clinic and will ensure the sterility and availability of equipment. I once took out horse sutures from a man’s leg travelling back from Africa as this was all that had been available locally.

8) Itinerary and Local Areas

As you are travelling for an extended period of time it may not matter exactly where you travel to next.  When travelling you become very unaware of what is happening in the rest of the world and floods and natural disasters will often go unreported. There is a foreign office web site updated daily which is excellent and well worth checking before you travel and whilst you are away if you’re deciding on your next destination. It also informs of surrounding areas, which may be unsafe for tourists and developing civil unrest, you can also follow on Twitter @FCO travel or visit

9) Before You Go...

Travel insurance is the thing you only need when you haven’t got it. Don’t be that person who gets caught out. This site gives you a general checklist of what you should be able to cover. It is important to get an insurance policy tailored to your needs and probably the most important bits to read are the exclusions. If what you need is excluded, this is not the right policy for you. There are many companies who specialize in Gap Travel Insurance and research into these is strongly recommended.

10) Contact

Touch base with the folks back home. If you don’t have a relative that you wish to inform or keep in contact with, then chose a friend and arrange to catch up at regular intervals. It is so easy nowadays to send a Skype or WhatsApp call at many of the Internet cafes dotted around the world. You may wish to talk with your phone provider before you leave to see what Worldwide services they offer.