What is Influenza?
Influenza is an illness characterised by a sudden onset of a fever and respiratory tract symptoms such as cough, stuffy nose, sore throat together with headache, muscle and joint pains and occasionally vomiting and diarrhoea
|Is it a cold or the flu?|
|Fever||Rare||Usual: Sudden and high, especially in young children,|
|lasts 3 to 4 days|
|General aches, Pains||Slight||Usual: often severe|
|Fatigue, weakness||Sometimes||Usual: can last up to 2 to 3 weeks|
|Exhaustion||Never||Usual: at the beginning of the illness|
|Chest discomfort (cough)||Common||Sometimes|
|Treatment||Antihistamines||Antiviral medicines – see your doctor|
|Prevention||Wash your hands often||Annual vaccination|
|with soap and water.||Antiviral medicines|
|Avoid close contact||See your doctor|
|with anyone with a cold|
|Complications||Sinus congestion.||Bronchitis, Pneumonia: Can worsen chronic conditions; Can be|
|Middle ear infection||life threatening; Complications more likely in the elderly, those with|
|Asthma||chronic conditions, young children and pregnant woman|
Who is at risk?
Anyone can get flu, but some people are more at risk.
Toddlers and infants under 2 years are especially at increased risk of admission to hospital for complications associated with influenza. In 2-5 year olds higher rates of emergency visits to the doctor or ER for similar problems have been seen.
|World Health Organisation Highly Recommends|
|vaccination for the following groups|
|• Young Children 6 – 23 months of age|
|• People over 65|
|• Health care and child care personnel, (e.g. nurses, nannies ect)|
|• People who live in facilities – nursing homes, or military barracks|
|• People taking certain drugs, like those for cancer or HIV/AIDS that weaken the immune system|
|• People with chronic illnesses, like asthma, diabetes or heart problems|
|• Pregnant woman|
How do we protect?
Infectious at least 1-2 days before the onset of the illness and for at least 10 days thereafter. The virus is droplet spread, so general measures such as good hand washing and covering the face when sneezing, may help.
The under 6 months of age infant is too young be given the influenza vaccine. The only way to protect them is to vaccinate all household contacts and out-of-house care providers and so create a zone of protection around them
The trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine is the vaccine currently available in South Africa. The strains included vary from year to year and are determined by what is currently prevalent in the world. The release of the 2015 vaccine has been delayed due to the addition
Vaccination is safe.
- Flu vaccines will not give you flu because the flu vaccine contains non-infectious particles of the virus, which merely alert the body to the threat of the virus.
- Flu vaccines are well tolerated, the most frequent associated reaction is mild soreness at the injection site.
- Flu vaccines are clinically tested every year for their safety and immunogenicity.
Minor side effects – pain and redness at the site of the injection. Other side effects – include nausea, lethargy, headaches, muscles aches and chills and are usually mild. It is important to remember that the vaccine cannot cause influenza.
When should the vaccine be given?
As soon as possible. The vaccine takes 2 weeks to afford protection.
There are contraindications to the influenza vaccine and these include:
- Under 6 months of age
- A previous severe allergic reaction to eggs or chicken
- A moderate to severe illness with a fever
- Any person who preciously experienced Guillain-Barr Syndrome within 6 weeks of a previous influenza Vaccine
- A history of a precious allergic reaction to the influenza vaccine
Vaccination still remains the most effective way to prevent Influenza.
Influenza antiviral drugs can treat flu illness. CDC recommends these drugs be used to treat people who are very sick or who are at high risk of serious flu-related complications who have flu symptoms. It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people at greater risk of serious flu related complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition. Most otherwise-healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.
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