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Seasonal flu or influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by flu viruses which circulate in all parts of the world.
Seasonal flu symptoms include a high temperature, a severe (usually dry) cough, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, sore throat, and a runny nose. A person with the flu will also feel extremely unwell.
Most people recover from the symptoms within a week or two without requiring medical attention. But flu can cause severe illness or death especially in people at high risk (see below).
Illnesses range from mild to severe and even death. Hospitalisation and death occur mainly among high risk groups.
The most effective way to prevent the flu is get vaccinated. An annual vaccination is recommended as immunity decreases over time. The flu vaccine can be administered as an injection or using an intra-nasal spray.
While everyone should consider getting a flu vaccine, it is especially important that the following groups get vaccinated:
- Persons aged 65 years and older.
- Persons with a chronic illness requiring regular follow up, e.g. chronic respiratory disease (including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma and bronchopulmonary dysplasia), chronic heart disease (including acute coronary syndrome), chronic renal disease, diabetes mellitus, haemoglobinopathies, chronic liver disease, chronic neurological disease (including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system).
- Those who are immunosuppressed due to disease or treatment including those with missing or non-functioning spleens.
- All cancer patients.
- Patients with any condition that can compromise respiratory function, e.g. spinal cord injury, seizure disorder or other neuromuscular disorder.
- Persons with Down syndrome.
- Those with morbid obesity, i.e. body mass index over 40.
- All pregnant women (vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy).
- Healthcare workers.
- Household contacts of at-risk persons.
- Out-of-home care givers to at-risk persons.
- Residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions.
- People with regular contact with pigs, poultry, or waterfowl.