Catching the dreaded winter lurgy is never pleasant, but this year, the bugs are especially nasty.

If you, or someone you know, has developed a mutant cold/flu that seems so much worse than usual, then it might be the so-called 'Aussie flu' that's to blame.

After weeks of warnings from health experts, this severe strain of influenza has arrived in the UK. Australia has already been overwhelmed by the potentially deadly H3N2 strain, with 170,000 cases reported this season - that's more than two-and-a-half more than last winter.

Public Health England reports that this particularly vicious virus has also caused 85 deaths in the UK since the beginning of October.

So should you be worried? We spoke to experts to find out what you need to know about Aussie flu, including the telltale signs that you've been unlucky enough to catch it, and what you can do about it.

What is Aussie flu and what are the symptoms?

There are always a few strains of flu circulating, and Aussie flu, or H3N2, is just one of them. It's is a particularly unpleasant strand of influenza A, the most common category of human flu, so the symptoms are similar to regular winter flu but can be more severe.

"If you contract the virus, you'll likely experience a high temperature or fever along with coughing, sneezing and a runny nose," says Steve Iley, medical director for Bupa UK. "Likewise, it can also bring on aches and pains, with feelings of weakness or fatigue."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Should we be worried about a UK outbreak?

"Australian flu is rapidly spreading quickly across Europe, including in Spain and Ireland. Thankfully, we're yet to see a major spike in cases in the UK, but we should be prepared for it," warns Steve.

The good news is that there's no need to panic. "For the most of us - symptoms of the flu should clear up in about a week," Steve says. However, he does note that some people may be more vulnerable than others. "People in high-risk groups, including the elderly, children, those with chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems and pregnant women, should take extra precautions and seek medical help if required."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Is there a flu vaccine?

Yes there is. A vaccine against Aussie flu was developed in the UK in March, using the virus that's wreaked havoc in Australia. However, there's the chance that the strain currently hitting the UK will have mutated in transit, potentially rendering the vaccine ineffective. However, Public Health England still recommends that as many people as possible get a preventative jab - particularly those who are more vulnerable.

How else can you avoid catching it?

The NHS lists a few simple prevention tactics to minimise your risk of catching and spreading this unpleasant virus: washing your hands regularly with soap and water, using tissues to cover your mouth when you sneeze, putting used tissues in the bin as soon as possible, and regularly cleaning surfaces such as keyboards, phones and door handles.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

How can you ease the symptoms if you do catch it?

Although it can be unpleasant and make you feel very poorly (you might have to stay in bed), flu is relatively harmless to most people and has a fairly short lifespan - so you'll likely need to wait it out with plenty of rest, fluids and time off work.

"In the early stages, the best thing to do is approach it in the same way as you would any virus," says Dr Faye Christopherson, medical officer at Push Doctor. "That means staying hydrated, staying warm, and taking painkillers to manage symptoms such as a headache or sore throat."

"However, it's important to remember that this is an aggressive strain of flu," adds Dr Christopherson. "If your symptoms aren't getting any better, or if you feel like they're getting worse, it's vital that you see a doctor as soon as possible."

If you do start to feel the telltale twinges of Aussie flu - a prickly throat, high temperature and a raging headache - experts recommend that you take time off work to rest up, and to avoid passing the virus on to your colleagues.

"If you do get ill, it's best to stay at home from work," advises Steve. "Not only will that help you recover as quickly as possible, but it will also prevent you from spreading the flu to colleagues. Most people with the flu are able to return to work within a week, but if you're worried or your symptoms continue, you should see your doctor."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Is it worth seeing a doctor for antibiotics in the early stages?

The short answer is: no.

"GPs won't prescribe antibiotics for flu," says Steve, "so most people will be best visiting their pharmacist, who can advise on treatment.

"However, you should see a GP if your symptoms last for more than seven days, or if you're in one of the high-risk groups, such as children or the elderly."

And while it's very unlikely for most people, he notes: "If you experience sudden chest pains, difficulty breathing or coughing up blood, you should call 999 to seek immediate help."