What is the Flu?
Flu is the short/ abbreviated term for influenza
Influenza (the flu) can be a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Anyone can get sick from the flu.
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 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 the flu?
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 flu and have no symptoms at all or only respiratory symptoms without a fever.
What can be done to help prevent the Flu?
Personal health protection measures are the first form of defense against Influenza (Flu)
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 the Flu 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 flu viruses and then touching their mouth or nose.
How can persons prevent the spread of the flu?
To prevent the spread of infectious diseases like influenza, the public is urged to:
- Take the new 2020 flu 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 flu like symptoms.
- If you have symptoms of the flu, 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 flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are available at all health centres at no cost. Some health centres give the flu vaccine every day and others have certain days for flu vaccination. Call your community health centre for their vaccination schedule.
Is the flu vaccine safe?
The flu vaccine is safe. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The most common side effects from a flu shot are a sore arm and maybe a low fever or achiness. If you do experience them at all, these side effects 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 flu vaccine there are some persons who are at a higher risk of getting Influenza and may experience more severe illness if they contract it:
- Children aged six (6) months to five (5) years;
- Adults over sixty (60) 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.
Is it safe to go to the health centre to get the vaccine?
All infection control protocols are strictly enforced at health centres to ensure that the public is protected. You will be required to wear your mask and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before you enter. You will also be required to give a brief health history and have your temperature checked before you are given the vaccine.
How is the flu treated?
Most people with flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. However, if you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group, are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider.
Can the flu vaccine be taken while pregnant?
Studies show flu vaccines are very safe for pregnant women and developing babies. All pregnant women are advised to receive the flu vaccine during pregnancy.
Are there different types/strains of the Flu?
There are different strains/types of Influenza. For example:
- H1N1 (also known as swine flu)
H1N1 and H3N2 have been endemic to Trinidad and Tobago since about 2009.
Why do I have to get a flu vaccine every season?
Flu viruses are constantly changing. Each flu season, different flu 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 flu.
Once I get the vaccine am I 100% protected against the flu?
The flu vaccine is not 100% effective so there's still a chance you can get the flu even after you've been vaccinated. That's because scientists don't always correctly match the viruses in the vaccine with those that pop up during the flu season
Is there a difference between the Flu and the common cold?
The Flu or Influenza is different from the common cold. They may have similar symptoms in the beginning but the Flu or Influenza is more severe.
How is the flu different from COVID-19?
Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by an infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, testing may be needed to confirm a diagnosis.
Is COVID-19 more dangerous than the flu?
Flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illness, hospitalization or death. While there is still much to learn about COVID-19, at this time, it does seem as if COVID-19 is more deadly than seasonal influenza. This may change as we learn more about the number of people who are infected who have mild illnesses.
Can I have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
Yes. It is possible have flu, or other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time. Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between without diagnostic testing.
Will a flu vaccine protect me from COVID-19?
Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, however flu vaccination has many other important benefits. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death. Getting a flu vaccine will be more important this year than in the past because, you can reduce your risk from flu and also help conserve potentially scarce health care resources.