The influenza virus, also known as flu, is an illness that shares certain symptoms with the common cold but has a more debilitating immediate impact and can also pose a serious threat to the health of certain sufferers. It’s also highly contagious, especially during winter months, increasing the importance of each of us taking proactive steps to stay healthy and avoid contracting the virus.
Symptoms of seasonal influenza include fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, loss of appetite and a runny nose.
Visiting your local Life Pharmacy or GP to receive the flu vaccination is among the most significant steps you can take to avoid getting the flu. Although you may have previously received a flu vaccination, a fresh jab will can increase the strength of your body’s defence. This is because the effectiveness of vaccinations wane over time.
Another important factor is the frequent mutation of the flu virus. Unlike some other illnesses – measles being one example – the flu is constantly evolving. That’s why the World Health Organization, which is responsible for monitoring strains of influenza around the world, updates the composition of the vaccine twice each year. Closely matching the vaccine with circulating strains increases its ability to repel the virus when it reaches your body.
Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at higher risk than others of health complications from influenza. These include pregnant women, children between 6 months and 5 years of age, those over the age of 65, people with chronic medical conditions and healthcare workers.
By getting a flu vaccination, you also help to protect the people around you. This is called herd immunity. The more vaccinated people there are in a community, the less space there is for the flu to take hold and spread. Some people can’t be vaccinated for health reasons – babies under six months being one example – so taking steps to avoid exposing them to the flu virus is very important.
If you have any questions, please visit your local Life Pharmacist or GP.