Escape the Flu Season Unscathed

Influenza

Colder temperatures and kids back to school mean one thing: the flu. Though catching a cold at some point in winter is almost inevitable, avoiding the more serious influenza virus is as easy as getting a shot.

What is influenza?

Influenza occurs every winter, and it’s a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly. Many people confuse influenza with a common cold, but colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat. However, a bad bout of influenza can cause serious consequences, especially in people suffering from chronic diseases and the elderly.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

The most common symptoms of influenza are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. Healthy individuals recover within seven days, but the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability and even death. Flu can affect anyone but if you have a long-term health condition, the effects of influenza can make it worse.

Influenza - fever

What causes influenza?

Influenza is caused by the viruses that infect the throat and lungs. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses and therefore will not treat it. If, however, there are complications from getting the flu, antibiotics may be needed.

How is influenza transmitted?

When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the virus in tiny droplets of saliva. These droplets can then be breathed in by other people or be picked up by retouching the surfaces with the saliva.

How can influenza be prevented?

You can prevent the spread of the virus by covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and you can wash your hands frequently or use hand gels. But the best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts.

What is the influenza vaccine?

The vaccine provides the best protection available against the viruses. The most likely viruses that will cause influenza each year are identified in advance and vaccines are then made to match them as closely as possible.

Influenza Vaccine

Who should take the influenza vaccine?

Anyone above the age of six months can take the vaccine. It is recommended strongly to people who are more at risk, including:

  • Persons residing in institutions
  • Students attending Special Schools
  • Persons aged 55 years and over
  • Children from the age of 6 months to 59 months
  • Anyone suffering from
    1. Chronic respiratory disease
    2. Chronic heart disease
    3. Chronic liver disease
    4. Chronic kidney disease
    5. Diabetes Mellitus
    6. Any chronic Immunodeficiency state, including HIV or AIDS

It is also recommended to all Health Care Professionals and staff working with patients, including:

  • Police
  • AFM
  • Civil Protection
  • Staff at Detention Centres and Open Centres
  • Veterinary services
  • Abattoir
  • Cleansing Department
  • Customs officials involved in border controls
  • Corradino Correctional Facility staff and inmates

I had the influenza vaccination last year. Do I need to have it again this year?

Yes. The influenza vaccine for each winter helps provide protection against the strains of flu that are likely to be present and may be different from last year’s. In addition, protection from the flu vaccine may only last about six months, so you should have the flu vaccine each flu season. Most people get no side effects at all. Some may get a sore arm at the site of the injection, a low grade fever and aching muscles for a day or two after the vaccination.

I think I’ve already had the flu, do I still need to take the vaccine?

Yes. There is more than one influenza virus. Other viruses can give you influenza-like symptoms.

When should I get vaccinated?

It is best to have the flu vaccination in the autumn before any outbreaks of influenza start and you would have had time to build the immunity.

For more information contact the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate on 23266000 or the National Immunisation Services on 21243314