Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Most people recover after a few days but for some people it can be fatal. An influenza vaccination each year provides the best protection against influenza.
- What is influenza?
- Influenza, or flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. There are three main types of influenza virus that cause infection in humans - types A, B and C - and many sub-types or strains. Influenza can occur throughout the year but influenza activity usually peaks in winter.
- Influenza is a vaccine-preventable illness but a new vaccine needs to be given each year because influenza viruses change (mutate) constantly. A new influenza vaccine is prepared each year to best match the strains predicted for the coming influenza season.
- How is it spread?
- Influenza viruses are mainly spread by droplets made when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Influenza can also be spread through touching surfaces where infected droplets have landed.
- People with influenza can be infectious from the day before their symptoms start. Adults are most infectious in the first 3-5 days of their illness, while children remain infectious for 7-10 days, and people with weakened immune systems may be infectious for longer.
- How is it prevented?
- Influenza vaccination each year before winter arrives is the best way to prevent influenza.
- Seasonal influenza vaccination is available for anyone aged 6 months and over to protect against influenza, provided they do not have a medical reason that precludes them from receiving influenza vaccines.
- People at higher risk of influenza complications are strongly recommended to have an annual influenza vaccination. Annual influenza vaccination is also recommended for those who frequently come in to close contact with other people at higher risk of influenza complications (such as health care workers, and family members), to help protect vulnerable people from infection.
Take action to stop the spread of influenza by remembering to:
Cover your face when you cough or sneeze and throw used tissues in a trash bin.
Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Wash hands for at least 10 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Stay at home until you're well. Wait at least 24 hours after your fever resolves so you that you are unlikely to infect other people. Keep sick children away from school and other activities.
Call ahead to see a doctor. If you think you may have influenza and you need to see a doctor, call first so the clinic can take precautions to reduce the risk to other people.