Influenza Frequently Asked Questions

What is Influenza?

Influenza can be a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Anyone can get sick from the Influenza virus.

What is the impact of Influenza?

Influenza is a serious illness and can be fatal.  It has been responsible for pandemic outbreaks. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 500,000 people die from Influenza each year. In the Caribbean region, the scale of Influenza related hospitalizations and death is not accurately known, as diagnostic testing for the Influenza virus is not widely available. 

What are the symptoms of Influenza?

Symptoms of Influenza can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.

People may be infected with the Influenza virus and have no symptoms at all or only respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Is there a difference between the Influenza virus and the Common Cold?

The Influenza virus is different from the Common Cold. They may have similar symptoms in the beginning, but the Influenza virus is more severe.

What can be done to help prevent the spread of Influenza?

Personal health protection measures are the first form of defense against the Influenza virus.

  • Members of the public are advised to take the following personal health precautions:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
  • Where possible, avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the bin and wash your hands.

How is Influenza spread?

Influenza can easily spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes and droplets containing viruses get into the air and are inhaled by persons nearby.  Persons can also become infected by touching surfaces (door knobs, desks etc.) contaminated with Influenza viruses and then touching their mouth or nose.  

How can persons prevent the spread of the Influenza virus?

To prevent the spread of infectious diseases like Influenza, the public is urged to:

  • Take the new 2023/2024 Influenza vaccine.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.  
    Doing so into the crook of your elbow is also acceptable.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly.  
  • Avoid close contact with people who have Influenza like symptoms.  
  • If you have symptoms of the Influenza virus, seek immediate medical attention if you experience difficulty breathing, chest tightness, the inability to eat or drink, persistent vomiting, or confusion.  

Where can I go to get the Influenza vaccine?

The Influenza vaccine is available at ALL HEALTH CENTERS at no cost, Monday – Friday during routine Health Centre hours of operation.

Is the Influenza vaccine safe?

The Influenza vaccine is safe. You cannot contract the Influenza virus from the vaccine. The most common side effects experienced after taking the vaccine are – soreness in the arm, a low fever or achiness. These side effects - if experienced, are mild and short-lived.

What are the complications of Influenza?

Some of the complications of Influenza include:

  • Exacerbation of chronic diseases
  • Increased risk of stroke, heart attack,
  • Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus, and ear infections
  • Hospitalizations and death.

Which groups of persons are high-risk?

While everyone is encouraged to get the Influenza vaccine there are some persons who are at a higher risk of contracting the Influenza virus and may experience more severe illness if they contract it:

  • Children aged six (6) months to five (5) years;
  • Adults over sixty-five (65) years of age;
  • Persons suffering from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs);
  • Pregnant women;
  • Persons with compromised immune systems (such as AIDs or Tuberculosis or Sickle Cell);
  • Persons with chronic respiratory illnesses (such as Asthma);
  • Members of the National Security Forces and Customs and Immigration and
  • Health care workers.

How is the Influenza virus treated?

Most people who have contracted the Influenza virus have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you do experience symptoms, it is advised that you stay at home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. However, if you have symptoms of the virus and are in a high-risk group, are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider.

Can the Influenza vaccine be taken while pregnant?

Studies show Influenza vaccines are very safe for pregnant women and developing babies. All pregnant women are advised to receive the vaccine during pregnancy.

Are there different types/strains of Influenza?

There are four (4) different strains/types of Influenza. For example:

  • Influenza A (H1N1)
  • Influenza A (H3N2)
  • Influenza B (Austria) – Victoria Lineage
  • Influenza B (Phuket) – Yamagata Lineage
  • (H1N1 and H3N2 have been endemic to Trinidad and Tobago since about 2009.)

Why do I have to get an Influenza vaccine every season?

Influenza viruses are constantly changing. Each season, different Influenza viruses can spread, and they can affect people differently based on differences in the immune system. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the Influenza virus.

Once I get the vaccine, can I still contract the Influenza virus?

Yes, there's still a chance you can contract the virus even after you've been vaccinated. However, the vaccine reduces the severity of the illness and hospitalisation.

Can I have Influenza and other viruses at the same time?

Yes. It is possible to have the Influenza virus, as well as other respiratory illnesses at the same time.

Can I get both the Influenza and other vaccines at the same time?

The Influenza vaccine can be administered at the same time as routine vaccines.


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