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Influenza (Flu)

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases - Influenza (flu) information for visitors and the public

About Flu

Flu is a highly infectious disease. Illness is often severe and prolonged, and can cause symptoms ranging from minor illness through to pneumonia and death. The most common complications of flu are bronchitis and pneumonia.

Those at greatest risk are:

  • The elderly, young adults and children;
  • People with long-term heart, lung and kidney conditions;
  • People with diabetes or anaemia;
  • People with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny/ stuffy nose
  • Weakness/ collapse
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Extreme tiredness

Children sometimes develop nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, but this is uncommon.

How flu is spread

Flu can be caught from direct or indirect contact with a coughing, sneezing person who has flu. Flu is spread mostly in droplets of saliva and mucus that are blasted into the air when a person coughs or sneezes. The droplets travel through the air and are inhaled by other people or land on surfaces and are picked up by other people when these surfaces are touched. The flu virus can last for hours, especially when the weather is cold and in low humidity.

How long it takes for you to become unwell

People usually become unwell within 1-3 days of picking up flu virus.

Passing the flu virus onto others

In adults, the flu virus can be passed from person-to-person probably 3-5 days from when symptoms develop. In young children, the flu virus can be passed from person-to-person for up to 7 days after symptoms develop. People with very weak immune systems can carry the flu virus and pass it to others for weeks, or even months.

Preventing the spread of flu

  • Always use a disposable tissue to cover your mouth or nose whenever you cough or sneeze, and also when you wipe or blow your nose;
  • Throw tissues in the bin once they have been used;
  • Avoid touching your nose and mouth;
  • Always clean your hands after sneezing, coughing, wiping or blowing your nose (or when you have helped a child or someone else to do this) and also after coming into contact with droplets coughed or sneezed out by another person;
  • Clean your hands before and after any contact with a person with flu (and their bed area if you are caring for someone with flu in their home).

Always clean your hands before entering and leaving patient care areas - even when you are well

If you have flu symptoms it is important that you do not visit anyone in a hospital or residential care setting.

If you think you are developing flu symptoms and need to see a doctor, ask the doctor to visit you at home or ask for an appointment at the end of the surgery. This will help to avoid passing flu to others.

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