What is influenza?

What is influenza?

Answer: 

Influenza (or ‘the flu’) is caused by three types of influenza virus – A, B and C that infect the respiratory system.  Influenza is contagious and is spread by coughing, sneezing and direct contact with an infected person or by touching a contaminated surface. Extended periods in an enclosed poorly ventilated space with an infected person increases the chances of getting influenza.  You can be infectious around a day before symptoms appear.

Influenza illness can include any or all of these symptoms: fever, muscle aches, headache, lack of energy, dry cough, sore throat, and possibly a runny nose. The fever and body aches can last 3-5 days and the cough and lack of energy may last for two or more weeks.

Although people with underlying health conditions are most at risk from influenza associated complications, previously healthy people can still become seriously ill and even die.

Influenza continues to be a major threat to public health worldwide because of its ability to spread rapidly through populations.  Anyone from the age of 6 months on can be vaccinated against influenza.  The vaccine is fully funded by PHARMAC for certain groups of people who are considered to be at greater risk of complications from influenza. The vaccine is recommended (although not funded) particularly for those who are in close contact with people at high-risk of complications to reduce the risk of spread of the virus.