Flu, short for Influenza, is a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes.
The flu virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.
If you are generally healthy it usually clears up within a week, however it can be extremely serious for anyone with underlying health conditions, resulting in severe illness or even death.
The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates Influenza may effect up to 20% of the population, depending on which virus is circulating, and cause substantial mortality.
The flu virus can survive for up to 24 hours. Anyone who breathes in the droplets or touch the surfaces that the droplets have landed on can catch the virus.
The flu jab is the best form of defence against catching flu and developing serious complications. This is available from the NHS for primary aged children and certain groups of adults, while private clinics also offer vaccinations. It is important to be vaccinated yearly, as the viruses which cause flu change every year, meaning there is a different vaccine from winter to winter.
Good hygiene is also key so regular hand washing & cleaning of surfaces along with antiviral medication can help.
Countries at risk
Flu, or Influenza is common all over the world, and is highly contagious.
You cannot fully protect yourself against flu, but by adopting good hygiene measures, you can help stop yourself catching flu or spreading it to others.
- Always wash your hands regularly with soap, especially after travelling on public transport.
- Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible.
- Avoid unnecessary contact with other people if you are infectious.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of flu can range from mild to severe. Some of the main flu symptoms include:
High temperature, tiredness & weakness, runny nose, sore throat, aching muscles & joints, headache, coughing & sneezing.