Flu is a highly infectious acute respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus and it affects people of all ages. The best way to prevent catching the flu is actually by getting your flu vaccination from your GP, Pharmacy, or Occupational Health therapist. If you are carrying the virus, you can spread it by coughing or sneezing. This can happen from 1-2 days before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after symptoms develop. Believe it or not, flu can survive on worktops and objects, especially in low temperatures and low humidity. You can get flu by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. The virus can live on a hard surface for up to 24 hours and a soft surface for around 20 minutes.
Flu symptoms come on suddenly with a fever, muscle aches, headache and fatigue. There are a number of key points to note in relation to the flu, not least that you are at increased risk if you don’t avail of the vaccination:
- Flu causes death and hospitalisation every year.
- Flu vaccine is the best protection against flu for at risk groups and health care workers.
- You need to get flu vaccination every season as the viruses change every year.
- Flu vaccine contains killed viruses – it cannot give you flu.
- Healthcare workers are up to 10 times more likely to get flu.
- Healthy people can have flu without any obvious symptoms and pass it on.
Can the flu be serious to your health?
Seasonal flu (also known as influenza) is a highly infectious illness caused by the flu virus. The virus infects your lungs and upper airways, causing a sudden high temperature and general aches and pains, headache, weakness and exhaustion. Symptoms can last for up to one week. You may need to stay in bed until your symptoms get better. Flu affects people of all ages and with some people flu can cause serious complications such as pneumonia. According to the HSE :
- If you are healthy you will usually recover in 7 days. But Flu can be severe and can cause serious illness and death.
- Complications of flu include bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections and rarely acute encephalopathy (swelling of the brain).
- Serious complications of flu are more likely if you have a chronic medical condition or if you are aged 65 years or older. Pregnant women are also at increased risk of flu complications.
- In Ireland, between 200 and 500 people, mainly older people, die from flu each winter.
- Every year, around the world, flu causes between 3 and 5 million cases of severe disease and up to 646, 000 deaths.
So, why not get down to your local pharmacy and protect yourself this winter . . . it will literally only take you 5 minutes, but could save you a lot more.