Facts about the flu
Every year from October to May, millions of people across the world come down with the flu. But did you know:
- Annually, the flu attacks between 5% and 10% of adults and between 20% and 30% of children worldwide(1).
- These attacks can result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, mainly among the high-risk groups, that may result in hospitalization(2).
- Sadly they also lead to around 250,000 to 500,000 deaths worldwide each year, again mainly among the high-risk groups(3).
- A flu shot can reduce flu-related mortality in the elderly by up to 80%(4).
- In Europe alone, flu immunisation prevents between 1.6 and 2.1 million cases of flu each year(5).
- Saving between 25,200 and 37,200 lives and cutting between EUR248 and EUR332 million in healthcare costs(6).
And if a pandemic were to occur:
- Around half of workers might be absent from work during a flu pandemic, because they are ill themselves, caring for sick family members or fear becoming catching the virus(7).
Yearly influenza epidemics can seriously affect all populations, but the highest risk of complications occur among(8):
- Children aged between 6 months to 5 years
- Elderly individuals (aged more than 65 years)
- Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
- Individuals with chronic medical conditions s including(9):
- respiratory diseases (such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or bronchitis)
- heart diseases (such as heart failure)
- kidney diseases
- liver diseases (such as hepatitis)
- neurological conditions (such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease)
- spleen problems (such as sickle cell disease)
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy.
People don’t know what flu is, how to prevent it, what the possible complications of flu are and who is most at risk. It’s in all our interests to reduce the number of incidents of flu and the potential for people to develop complications from flu.
There are simple steps that can help stop the spread of flu, especially when someone is ill. These include washing hands, wiping frequently touched surfaces, avoiding crowds, staying at home if you’re ill, covering a cough or sneeze, and throwing used tissues away. But the World Health Organization (WHO) believes immunisation is most effective way to prevent the flu and severe complications. In fact, it recommends that 75% of the elderly should be immunised(10).
(5), (6) http://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-14-813
(7) Gershon RR, Magda LA, Qureshi KA, Riley HE, Scanlon E, Carney MT, Richards RJ, Sherman MF. Factors associated with the ability and willingness of essential workers to report to duty during a pandemic. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2010; 52(10):995–1003)