Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is not to be mistaken with the common cold. The flu is a serious respiratory infection, and can lead to severe complications.
The flu is highly contagious, and influenza outbreaks occur every year. Flu virus strains can change quickly from year to year, which is why immunity towards the virus does not last long, and people can catch the flu many times during their lifetime.
Children are more susceptible compared to adults as they generally have a weaker immune system.
Influenza is easily spread from person to person, mainly through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even talks. Influenza virus can also spread when an infected person touches a surface or object, and another person touches the object and subsequently touches his mouth.
Common symptoms include:
- Sudden fever;
- Chills and shakes;
- Muscle aches;
- Extreme fatigue;
- Dry cough and/or sore throat;
- Loss of appetite.
In younger children or newborns, other symptoms may also be present. These include:
- A high fever that can’t be explained, but with no other signs of illness;
- Febrile seizures/convulsions;
- Stomach upset and/or pain, vomiting, diarrhoea;
- Severe leg or back pain due to muscle inflammation.
Did you know that influenza could lead to other health complications as well?
Complications from influenza
Risk for complications, hospitalisations and death due to influenza and influenza-related illnesses are higher in young children and elderly folks – those aged 65 years and above, as well any individual with medical conditions such as asthma or lung diseases. Complications that may arise from influenza include middle ear infections, neurological problems, heart inflammation as well as pulmonary diseases like bronchitis. In short, a weakened immune system leads to the onset of many diseases, which may be fatal or have devastating consequences.
Influenza usually is not the cause of death; instead, it creates a situation that leads to other serious medical conditions such as pneumonia or secondary bacterial infection, which can be fatal.
Reduce the occurrence of influenza!
Influenza viruses can cause major outbreaks in households, schools, and communities. Therefore, the best and most effective way to treat influenza outbreaks is by preventing it in the first place, and that is through vaccination. Because the viruses are constantly changing, the influenza vaccine is regularly updated to make sure it protects against the strains that are currently circulating.
This is the reason why influenza vaccine should be taken every year. The most recent 2010-2011 influenza vaccine protects against three virus strains that are the most common now – influenza A (H3N2 and H1N1) and influenza B.
It is recommended that everyone aged 6 months and older be vaccinated against influenza every year. Children younger than 6 months are at a high risk of serious complications from influenza infection, but because they are too young to receive influenza vaccination, the people who care for them or live around them should be vaccinated to protect these babies.
Don’t fall prey to serious health complications that can be prevented in the first place. Get your children and the whole family vaccinated against influenza every year – it is the safest way to ensure your family is protected against influenza!