The Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
How Flu Spreads
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.
Complications of Flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
Who should be immunised against the seasonal flu virus? Seasonal flu is the particular type of flu virus that arrives in the UK each autumn. The actual type varies from year to year. The new jab is developed each year to protect against the expected type. The flu jab takes up to 14 days for full protection after having the jab.
The Department of Health (DH) issues advice as to who should be immunised. The aim is to protect people who are more likely to develop complications from flu. Current advice is that you should be immunised against the seasonal flu virus each autumn if you:
- Are aged 65 or over.
- Have any ongoing (chronic) lung diseases.
Examples include chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and severe asthma (needing regular steroid inhalers or tablets). It is also recommended for any child who has previously been admitted to hospital with a chest infection.
- Have a chronic heart disease.
Examples include angina, heart failure or if you have ever had a heart attack.
- Have a serious kidney disease.
Examples include nephrotic syndrome, chronic kidney disease, a kidney transplant.
- Have a serious liver disease such as cirrhosis.
- Have diabetes.
- Have a poor immune system.
Examples include if you are receiving chemotherapy or steroid treatment (for more than a month), if you have HIV/AIDS or if you have had your spleen removed.
- Have certain serious diseases of the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis or have had a stroke in the past.
- Live in a nursing home or other long-stay residential care accommodation. In addition to the main at-risk groups of people listed above:
- You should be immunised if you are the main Carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill with flu.
- Staff involved in direct patient care (including nursing and care homes)
- Pregnant women. Even if you are otherwise healthy it is now recommended that all pregnant women receive the flu jab. If you are healthy and an adult aged under 65 and you do not fall into any of the above categories, then you do not need immunisation against seasonal flu. This is because you are unlikely to develop complications from flu.