What is flu (Influenza)?
Flu (influenza) is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. In healthy individuals flu usually resolves without treatment within 1-2 weeks. It can cause significant health problems in people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), diabetes and heart conditions.
The following is a summary about the disease. For further details speak to your local pharmacist or GP.
The flu virus spreads easily between person to person through droplets in the air when coughing and sneezing. Crowded, enclosed environments make it easier to catch. Flu can also be passed from touching surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus and then touching the nose or mouth.1
Seasonal flu occurs throughout the world. In the United Kingdom, most flu activity is from December till March. In the tropics, flu viruses can circulate throughout the year.
Up to date worldwide information on seasonal flu activity is available from the World Health Organization (WHO).1
Risk for travellers
For travellers visiting tropical and subtropical countries flu can be prevented by getting vaccinated.
Travellers can be at risk during the summer months, particularly if travelling in large groups that include tourists from other regions of the world where flu viruses are currently circulating. Crowded conditions increase the spread of infection e.g. Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages and cruise travel.1
The time between coming into contact with the virus and before the symptoms show is between 1-3 days. The common symptoms are:
Most symptoms typically last for 3-5 days but cough and tiredness may last for 1-2 weeks. People can be infective 5 days from the start of the illness, although children can remain infectious for 2 weeks.2
Complications of flu include:
Risks of complications resulting in hospitalisation or even death are higher among:
Flu is diagnosed from the symptoms; specific laboratory testing is rarely done. 1
Flu is usually self-limiting within 1-2 weeks and therefore antiviral medications are not recommended for people with flu who are otherwise healthy. The use of paracetamol and decongestants can help relieve the symptoms. Patients are encouraged to rest, keep well hydrated by drinking plent of fluids and increasing intake of vitamin C, vitamin D and Zinc whilst ill to boost their immune system. 3
Travellers are advised to take the following precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to respiratory infections and prevent spreading them:
For the 2018/19 flu season, vaccinations may be offered at NHS expense if patients meet eligibility criteria.
If you are a healthy individual who is not eligible for the free NHS flu vaccination then you may still wish to have the vaccination privately, as doing so can reduce number of days off work and help prevent spread to other people.
In the UK, flu vaccines are prepared in advance of the winter season. The vaccines available are:
Following vaccination, protection is thought to last for approximately one year, although this may be less for the elderly. Therefore it is vital to get vaccinated every year.
Most vaccinations are grown in embroynated hen’s egg and therefore egg allergies should be mentioned to the pharmacist.4
Of note, none of the influenza vaccines for the 2018/19 season contain thiomersal as an added preservative.5
|This information is taken from trusted third party websites, NaTHNaC (Travel Health Pro) and EMIS (Patient info) and use of all information has been licenced under the Open Government Licence http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/.
Although the materials are being used/replicated under the provisions of the Open Government Licence this in no way represents endorsement of Traveljab.co.uk by NaTHNaC, Emis, Public Health England, the NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care.