The influenza virus infects your nose, throat and lungs. The flu is normally worse than a cold.
In temperate climates such as New Zealand’s, you’re more likely to get the flu in winter. Some people get very sick — influenza causes deaths every year.
Symptoms of influenza come on suddenly and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, runny nose, cough and stomach upsets.
Older people, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from influenza, such as pneumonia. If you’re at higher risk, it is important to see your doctor early, to find out if you need treatment.
It is also important to seek medical advice early if you are concerned, and especially if there are any danger signs, even if you have been seen before. Other serious conditions can also look like the flu, including meningococcal disease.
Immunisation is your best defence against influenza. Even fit and healthy people should consider getting the flu jab to protect themselves.
The flu spreads quickly from person to person through touch and through the air.
While you’re unwell, stay away from work or school. Look after yourself and your family — rest and fluids are especially important.
Influenza can be caused by different strains of the influenza virus. (Symptoms for different types of flu are the same.) The seasonal influenza vaccine is altered most years to cover the particular strains of the virus that are circulating each year. When a new (novel) strain of the flu virus emerges that infects many people in a very short time, it is called a ‘flu pandemic’.