The flu in a nutshell
The flu (also known as seasonal influenza) is an acute viral infection caused by influenza viruses that circulate in most parts of the world. These viruses change all the time.
Symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, feeling unwell, a sore throat and a runny nose. The time from infection to illness is about 2 days (1).
Most people recover from fever and other symptoms within a week without requiring medical attention, however, according to WHO, influenza can cause severe illness or death, especially for people at high risk (2).
Am I at risk?
- - children under 2 years
- - pregnant women
- - adults over 65
- - people with certain medical conditions, like chronic heart, lung, kidney, liver, blood or metabolic diseases (e.g. diabetes), or weakened immune systems (3).
Why are seniors considered to be a risk group? With 65+ we are more vulnerable to complications from the flu; since our bodies find it harder to fight off infections, getting the flu vaccine can help reduce our risk of catching it.
How can I protect myself from the flu with 65+?
- Practice good health habits: There is no better medicine than prevention.
- Seek medical advice quickly if you develop flu symptoms (4): With 65+ it is recommended to contact your physician to see whether you might need a medical evaluation or treatment e.g. with antiviral drugs (5).
- Each flu season, a flu vaccine is developed to protect against the viruses that research suggests will be the most common ones circulating (6). The World Health Organization recommends annual vaccination for risk groups, including elderly individuals (>65 years of age) (7).