People commonly mistaken the flu (influenza) for the common cold, but the two are actually not the same1. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses2. It can come on suddenly and people who have the flu will usually experience symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness), vomiting and, on rare occasion, diarrhoea (more common in children than adults)3.
Unfortunately, certain people may end up developing severe illness and serious complications that can sometimes lead to death3. Such complications include inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia), heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle tissues (myositis), and multi-organ failure3.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorise these individuals into high-risk groups as follows:4
- Children younger than 5 years old (especially those under 2 years old)
- Pregnant women
- Older persons over 65 years old
- Chronic disease patients
- Individuals with respiratory conditions.
It is vital for anyone in these high-risk groups to avoid getting the flu. One of the most effective ways is by getting vaccinated against the disease5
. The quadrivalent flu vaccine provides broad protection that protects against four main flu viruses – two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses6
. Ask your doctor whether it is suitable for you.
Non high-risk individuals would also do well to get vaccinated7
. In fact, the CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age should get a flu shot every year (to protect against newly mutated flu viruses circulating during a particular year)7
. This makes sense as it is no fun feeling sick and miserable for days, or spreading the disease to family, friends, co-workers or, worse still, any high-risk individual in the vicinity.