The flu in a nutshell
The flu (also known as seasonal influenza) is an acute viral infection caused by viruses that circulates worldwide.
Symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, feeling unwell, a sore throat and a runny nose. The time from infection to illness is about 2 days.(1) Find out more about the symptoms.
Most people recover from fever and other symptoms within a week without requiring medical attention. However, influenza can cause severe illness or death, especially in people at high risk.(2)
Who is at risk?
The highest risk of complications occur among children younger than 2 years of age, adults aged 65 years or older, pregnant women, and people of any age with serious long-term health conditions. These include people with(3):
- 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.
In addition, healthcare professionals are at high risk of being exposed to the virus during the course of their everyday work. If they remain asymptomatic and continue to work, they may unknowingly act as carriers for the virus – spreading it to the vulnerable patients they care for.
How can I protect myself from the flu?
1. Don´t spread or get infected(4)
2. Keep it clean(5)
3. Stay fit and healthy
4. The World Health Organization (WHO), with its partners, closely monitors the influenza viruses circulating in humans and recommends a seasonal vaccine composition twice a year.(6) Flu immunisation (where vaccination causes a person’s body to become immune to flu) is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications, and for people who live with or care for high risk individuals.(7)
(1), (2) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/
(4), (5) http://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/home/index.html