Why the flu matters

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 290 000 to 650 000 respiratory deaths each year, mainly among the high-risk groups(3).
  • On average, the vaccine prevents around 60% of infections in healthy adults aged 18–64 years(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 248€ and 332€ million in healthcare costs(6).


High-risk groups

Yearly influenza epidemics can seriously affect all populations, but the highest risk of complications occur among(7):

  • Children under 59 months
  • The elderly
  • Pregnant women
  • Individuals with chronic medical conditions including(8):
    • respiratory conditions (such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or bronchitis)
    • heart conditions (such as heart failure)
    • chronic kidney disease
    • liver disease (such as hepatitis)
    • neurological conditions (such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease)
    • diabetes
    • 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
    • being very overweight
    • learning disabilities.

Health care workers are at high risk acquiring influenza virus infection due to increased exposure to the patients and risk further spread particularly to vulnerable individuals(9).

The challenge

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).

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