Equip yourself with credible facts as we debunk myths and misconceptions surrounding influenza. Click to expand for answers.

About Influenza

What is influenza?
Influenza, also known as flu, is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs.
Source: Guidelines for the Prevention of Influenza in Older Persons by Malaysian Influenza Working Group(MIWG) https://storage.unitedwebnetwork.com/files/183/392a5baac7fb975ca8c179782cc44bbc.pdf
Is influenza caused by a virus?
Yes, influenza is caused by viruses. There are three main types of influenza viruses: A, B, and C. Types A and B are responsible for most seasonal influenza outbreaks while Type C usually results in milder respiratory symptoms.
Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)
What is the difference between flu and influenza?
“Flu” and “influenza” are essentially the same thing, often used interchangeably to refer to the viral infection caused by influenza viruses.
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm
When is the influenza season in Malaysia?
Influenza occurs all year round in Malaysia with peaks in May-July and November-January.
Source: https://adultimmunisation.msidc.my/influenza/

Influenza Symptoms

What are the symptoms of influenza?
Influenza symptoms come on very quickly and can include:
  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • vomiting and diarrhoea (more common in children than adults)
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm
What are the differences in symptoms between influenza, the common cold & COVID-19?
How can I tell if I have influenza?
Because other viruses can cause respiratory illness similar to influenza, it’s impossible to be certain based on symptoms alone. Consider seeing your doctor to get a test done.
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/testing.htm
What kinds of influenza tests are there?

Rapid Diagnostics tests (RIDTs):

  • Can be done by yourself at home
  • Involves inserting a swab into your nostril to get a sample
  • Provides results within approximately 10-15 minutes
  • Results may not be as accurate as other influenza tests (You could still have influenza, even though rapid test results is negative)

Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR)

  • Must be performed in hospitals or diagnostic laboratories
  • Requires a health care provider to use a swab to swipe the inside of your nose or back of your throat and send it for testing
  • Results may take one to several hours

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/testing.htm#flu-tests

Is influenza contagious?
Yes. Influenza viruses can be detected in most infected persons from 1 day before they show symptoms until about 5-7 days after getting sick. The most contagious period is in the first 3-4 days after symptoms start. For infants and those with weakened immune systems, the contagious period may extend beyond 7 days.
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm

Influenza Transmission

How does influenza spread?
People with influenza can spread it to others, mainly through droplets when they cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby or be inhaled into the lungs. Sometimes someone may get influenza by touching a surface contaminated with the virus and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm

Influenza High-Risk Groups

Anyone can experience serious influenza complications, but certain groups face a higher risk.

This includes the following:

  • Older persons (60 and above)
  • People with chronic medical conditions (like heart disease & diabetes)
  • Pregnant women
  • Young children under 5 years old

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/index.htm

Older persons are at high risk of developing serious influenza complications like pneumonia, heart attacks and strokes. As people grow older, their immune systems may weaken or become less effective at fighting off infections, making them more susceptible to serious complications from influenza.

Yes, the influenza vaccine is safe for older persons. In the “Guidelines for the Prevention of Influenza in Older Persons” by Malaysian Influenza Working Group (MIWG), it is recommended for all older persons 60 years old and above to get the influenza shot yearly.
Source: https://storage.unitedwebnetwork.com/files/183/392a5baac7fb975ca8c179782cc44bbc.pdf

 

Learn more about influenza in older persons by watching this video featuring Dr Nurhayati Mohd Marzuki, Consultant Respiratory Physician:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxWwdAG9e7Y&t=1s&ab_channel=Immunise4Life/

Influenza can worsen chronic illnesses, making it difficult to manage and treat. For example, in people living with diabetes, blood glucose levels may go extremely low or high due to a severe influenza infection and this can lead to life-threatening diabetic emergencies.

Heart disease, on the other hand, causes structural damage to the heart such as the narrowing and hardening of arteries and weakening of the heart muscles. As you age, you may not be able to tolerate an influenza illness due to the weakened heart condition.

Yes, the influenza vaccine is safe for people with chronic conditions. The influenza vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of influenza-related worsening of chronic conditions and prevent influenza-associated hospitalisation.
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/chronic-conditions/index.htm

 

Learn more about influenza, advancing age & chronic diseases by downloading our FREE booklet!
Prevent Influenza As Part Of Managing Your Diabetes & Heart Disease

Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe complications from influenza. Studies have shown that influenza during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight. Pregnant women are also at risk of experiencing influenza complications like bronchitis, which can then develop into pneumonia. Yes, the influenza vaccine is safe for pregnant women. Studies show that getting the influenza shot during pregnancy lowers the chances of being hospitalised with influenza by about 40%.

Getting the influenza shot during pregnancy can also help protect baby from influenza for up to six months after birth (when they are too young to get vaccinated). It’s important to note that some influenza vaccines may offer this benefit while others may not. For more information, consult with your healthcare professional.
Source: https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/worries-and-discomforts/symptoms-watch-out-for/flu-and-pregnancy

Children under 5 years old are at a higher risk of contracting influenza because they are still developing their immune systems. This means they are more likely to develop serious influenza complication such as pneumonia, dehydration, worsening of existing medical problems like heart disease or asthma, sinus, and ear infections & brain dysfunction. Yes, the influenza vaccine is safe for them. The influenza vaccine is shown to reduce the risk of influenza illness, hospitalisation, and death in children.
Source: : https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/children.htm 
Can influenza cause severe complications that lead to death?
Yes. The most common complication of influenza is pneumonia. Influenza can also lead to ear infections, sinus infections, heart attacks, strokes, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, or asthma. At times, severe influenza infections can lead to death.
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm

Influenza Prevention

What is the best way to prevent influenza?
The best way to prevent influenza is by getting the annual influenza vaccine. The vaccine reduces influenza-related illness and the risk of serious complications that can result in hospitalisation or death. In addition to getting vaccinated, you should wash your hands frequently with soap and water, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects & avoid close contact with individuals who are not feeling well.
Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)
Why do I need to get the influenza vaccine ever year?
You need to get the influenza vaccine every year for two reasons. First, a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual influenza vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because the flu viruses keep evolving, the vaccine formula is adjusted annually to fight the most prevalent strains expected for the upcoming season. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm
Where can I get the influenza vaccine?
Currently, the influenza vaccine is available at private clinics & hospitals.
Click on this link to locate a clinic near you: https://immunise4life.my/clinics/
How long does it take for the influenza vaccine to provide protection?
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza.
Source: http://www.myhealth.gov.my/en/influenza-2/
What are the side-effects of the influenza vaccine?
The common side effects from the influenza shot include soreness, redness, and/or swelling where the injection was given, headache, fever, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue.
Source: https://adultimmunisation.msidc.my/influenza/

Influenza Treatment

Can influenza be treated with medications?
Yes. There are prescription medications called “influenza antiviral drugs” that can be used to treat an influenza illness. However, it is most effective when taken early, ideally within 1-2 days after the onset of influenza symptoms.
Source: Guidelines for the Prevention of Influenza in Older Persons by Malaysian Influenza Working Group(MIWG) https://storage.unitedwebnetwork.com/files/183/392a5baac7fb975ca8c179782cc44bbc.pdf 
Can natural home remedies treat influenza?
Natural home remedies can help alleviate influenza symptoms, offering comfort and relief. However, these remedies are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult your doctor for personalised guidance and consider getting the yearly influenza vaccination for protection.
Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/expert-answers/flu-symptoms/faq-20057983

TOP 10 INFLUENZA MYTHS

1. There are very few influenza cases in Malaysia.

This is FALSE. In fact, there have been more influenza cases in Malaysia than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click on the link below to check the latest data:

FluNet chart – This data portal is maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO) and contains global data for influenza virological surveillance.

2. Influenza only occurs in countries with cold climates/four seasons.

This is FALSE. Influenza can occur in any country, regardless of its climate or the presence of distinct seasons. While influenza activity may vary based on factors such as temperature and humidity, the virus can still spread in both temperate and tropical regions.

In Malaysia, influenza occurs all year round with peaks in May-July and November-January.

Source: https://adultimmunisation.msidc.my/influenza/https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)

3. You can catch influenza from the influenza vaccine.

This is FALSE. The influenza vaccine contains an inactivated virus that cannot give you influenza. Slight muscle aches or a low-grade fever, are normal reactions of the immune system to the vaccine. The symptoms usually last only a day or two.

Source: https://adultimmunisation.msidc.my/influenza/

4. The COVID-19 vaccine can help protect against influenza.

This is FALSE. The COVID-19 vaccine specifically targets the COVID-19 virus and does not provide protection against influenza.

One of the best ways to protect against influenza is to get the yearly influenza vaccine.
Click on this link to locate a clinic near you: https://immunise4life.my/clinics/

Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-similarities-and-differences-with-influenza

5. Young and healthy people don't need the influenza vaccine.

While young and healthy individuals may have stronger immune systems, they can still contract and spread the influenza virus. Getting vaccinated not only protects them from getting influenza but it also helps prevent the spread of influenza to others, including those who are more vulnerable to severe influenza complications (older persons, people with chronic diseases, pregnant women, & young children).

Therefore, it’s recommended that everyone aged 6 months and older, get vaccinated against influenza annually.

Source: https://adultimmunisation.msidc.my/influenza/

6. The influenza vaccine is too strong for older persons, pregnant women, and people with chronic diseases.

This is FALSE. The influenza vaccine is recommended for older persons, pregnant women, and people with chronic diseases because they are at higher risk of developing severe complications from influenza.

If you’re in one of these target groups and unsure whether the influenza vaccine is right for you, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider for personalised advice.

Source: https://adultimmunisation.msidc.my/influenza/

7. Influenza is not a serious disease, so I don’t need the influenza vaccine.

This is FALSE. Influenza can indeed be a serious illness, especially for those in the high-risk group such as older persons, people with existing chronic diseases, pregnant women, and young children. Complications from influenza can lead to hospitalisation and even death.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are around 1 billion cases of influenza annually, including 3-5 million cases of severe illness. Influenza causes 290,000-650 000 respiratory deaths annually.

WHO recommends that everyone aged 6 months and above receives the influenza vaccine annually.

Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)

8. The influenza vaccine is only needed when you travel abroad.

This is FALSE. In Malaysia, influenza occurs all year round with peaks in May-July and November-January. Besides that, travellers visiting our country can potentially bring influenza with them, increasing the risk of transmission.

Regardless of whether you plan to travel abroad, you should consider getting vaccinated against influenza.

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/heal/2022/12/861063/health-stay-protected-influenza-flu-when-travelling

9. Getting the influenza vaccine ensures you won't get influenza at all.

This statement is not entirely accurate. While the influenza vaccine can help reduce the risk of getting influenza, it cannot help to prevent the illness completely.

However, if you have been vaccinated and do catch influenza, the influenza vaccine can help lessen the severity of the symptoms and reduce the risk of life-threatening influenza complications which can lead to hospitalisation & death.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm

10. It is not necessary to get the influenza vaccine every year.

This is FALSE. You need to get the influenza vaccine every year for two reasons. First, a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual influenza vaccine is needed for optimal protection.

Second, because the influenza viruses keep evolving, the vaccine formula is adjusted annually to fight the most prevalent strains expected for the upcoming season. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm