What is flu?
Influenza (flu) is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract (nose, mouth, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs). It is a highly infectious illness, which spreads rapidly, and even people with mild or no symptoms can infect others. Flu is characterised by a fever, chills, headache, aching muscles and joint pain and fatigue. For most healthy people, flu symptoms can make you feel exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed and rest until you get better.
Because viruses and not bacteria cause flu, antibiotics will not treat it. The flu vaccination is the best way to prevent it. If, however, there are complications from getting flu, antibiotics may be needed.
How is flu transmitted?
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the flu virus in tiny droplets of saliva over a wide area. Other people can then breathe in these droplets or they can be picked up by touching surfaces where the droplets have landed. Flu spreads rapidly, especially in closed communities such as care homes and schools. The flu vaccination can help prevent you being infected.
Who is most at risk from flu?
Anyone can catch flu but the risk of serious illness from flu is higher amongst children under six months of age, older people, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions such as respiratory or heart disease, chronic neurological conditions, or immunosuppression.
Who will receive the free flu vaccine in 2018/19?
- Those aged 65 years and over
- Those aged six months to under 65 with certain medical conditions
- Pregnant women
- Those living in a residential or nursing home
- The main carer of an older or disabled person
- Children aged 2-3 and those in reception class, and school years 1-5 (to those in year 5 for the first time)
- Those with morbid obesity (defined as BMI of 40 and above)
- Frontline health and social care workers (including hospices)
How can flu be prevented?
The best way to protect yourself from flu is by having the flu vaccine. You can help to stop it spreading by washing your hands properly. Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throw the tissue away and wash your hands.