Updated 2 December 2020

What is Influenza?

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Influenza otherwise known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory condition that is caused by influenza viruses. There are 2 main types of influenza viruses, Types A and B. While influenza peaks in winter, it can occur throughout the year.

Symptoms of Influenza

The common symptoms of influenza include;
  • Fever,
  • Chills,
  • Body aches,
  • Headaches,
  • Cough,
  • A runny nose or sneezing,
  • A sore throat,
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea which is more prevalent in children.,
While there are similarities between the symptoms of the common cold and flu, they are both completely different conditions. You will experience flu symptoms within 24 to 72 hours after catching the virus.  A mild influenza viral infection in an otherwise healthy individual normally clears up on its own without any special treatment within 7 days (or more in some cases). However, some people can become seriously unwell with influenza.

Who is at more risk of Influenza?

The flu can affect people of all ages however those that are more likely to be hospitalised with influenza are the following:
  • Babies
  • People who are more than 65 years ol
  • ATSI people
  • Pregnant women
  • People with long term medical conditions (such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease, metabolic disease, blood disease)
  • People who have compromised immune systems
  • People who smoke
  • People who are obese
  • People who have not been vaccinated against the flu

How does the flu spread?

The flu spreads:
  • when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and you breathe it in
  • through direct contact with fluid from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes
  • by coming in contact with a surface contaminated with the flu virus
The flu spreads easily through families, workplaces, childcare centres and schools. If you have the flu, you can be infectious to others from 24 hours before symptoms start until 1 week after the start of symptoms. If you have the flu, you can help stop the disease spreading by:
  • staying away from childcare, school, work or other places where they could spread the infection until you are well
  • covering your coughs and sneezes
  • washing your hands often.

How is Influenza Diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose the flu by:
  • checking your symptoms by asking questions
  • asking if you’ve been in contact with someone who has the flu
  • swabbing your nose or throat or taking a blood sample to test for the influenza virus.

Influenza Treatment

If your flu is mild, you may not require any form of treatment other than some self-care to help with the symptoms. To gain relief from mild flu, you can try these self-help remedies at home;
  • Rest,
  • Drink a lot of fluids, especially clean drinking water,
  • You can ease your fever and body pain with paracetamol,
  • Decongestant medications can also help to relieve a stuffy and runny nose.
In some cases of flu, antivirals may be given which, if given early enough after symptoms commence, may shorten how long the illness lasts. In cases of serious flu, hospitalisation is normally required. Antibiotics do not help influenza. Antibiotics are designed to kill viruses and not bacteria.