Flu, The Facts

What is Flu?

Flu is an acute viral respiratory infection.  It spreads easily from person to person.  

It is passed on when someone who already has flu coughs or sneezes and is transmitted through the air by droplets, or it can be spread by hands contaminated with the virus.

Symptoms can include fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, extreme fatigue, a dry cough, sore throat and stuffy nose.  Most people will recover within a week but flu can cause severe illness or even death in people at high risk.  It is estimated that around 10,000 deaths in England and Wales are attributed to influenza infections, annually

Why should I get a flu vaccination?

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza.  Although anyone can catch flu, certain people can be at greater risk as a result of flu, as their body may find it hard to fight the virus.  

If you are pregnant, 65 years or over, a child, morbidly obese, suffer from severe asthma, chronic liver disease, diabetes or immunosuppression, have a heart, kidney or lung condition, have suffered a stroke or transient ischaemic attack, you are considered at greater risk from flu.  If you fall into one of the 'at-risk' groups above or you are a carer or someone in close contact with immunocompromised individuals you are eligible for a free flu vaccination.

How does a flu vaccine work?

About 10 to 14 days after vaccination, your body makes antibodies that help to protect you against any similar flu viruses that may infect you.  The flu vaccine will provide you with protection for the upcoming flu season.

Will a flu vaccination give me flu?

No.  All injectable available flu vaccines are inactivated and do not contain live viruses.  One vaccine, an intranasal vaccination, contains live attenuated viruses that have been weakened and adapted.  None of the influenza vaccines can therefore cause flu. 

However, a flu vaccination can take up to 2 weeks to begin working so it is possible to catch flu in this period.

A flu vaccination is designed to protect you against the most common and potent strains of flu viruses circulating during the season.  However, there is still a small chance you could catch a flu virus from a strain which is not included in your annual flu vaccine.

Flu vaccination does not offer protection against the common cold, so you may still catch cold viruses circulating in the community.

Why do I need a flu vaccination every year?

Influenza viruses are constantly changing and vaccines are developed to protect against the predicted strains each season so it is important to get vaccinated against the latest strains for the UK.

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