WHAT IS SEASONAL FLU?
Seasonal flu occurs every year, usually in the winter. It’s a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. The most likely viruses that will cause flu each year are identified in advance and vaccines are then produced that closely match them.
The H1N1 virus that caused the ‘swine flu’ pandemic last year will still be around this winter, so this year’s seasonal flu vaccine will include a vaccine to protect against this virus.
ISN’T FLU JUST A HEAVY COLD?
No. Colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat.
Flu symptoms hit you suddenly and severely. They usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles, and you can often get a cough and sore throat at the same time.
Because flu is caused by viruses and not bacteria, antibiotics won’t treat it.
WHAT HARM CAN SEASONAL FLU DO?
People sometimes think a bad cold is flu, but having flu is often much worse than a cold – you may need to stay in bed for a few days if you have flu.
Some people are more susceptible to the effects of seasonal flu. For them it can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, or can make existing conditions worse. In the worst cases, seasonal flu can result in a stay in hospital, or even death.
WHO'S AT GREATER RISK FROM THE EFFECTS OF SEASONAL FLU?
Even if you feel healthy, you should definitely consider having the free seasonal flu vaccination if you have:
• a heart problem
• a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis or emphysema
• a kidney disease
• lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
• a liver disease
• had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
• a neurological condition, for example multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
• a problem with your spleen, for example sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed.
WHO ELSE SHOULD CONSIDER HAVING A SEASONAL FLU VACCINATION?
You should have the seasonal flu vaccination if you:
• are aged 65 years or over
• live in a residential or nursing home
• are the main carer of an older or disabled person, or
• are pregnant.