Get Flu Facts
Mar 15, 2017
Influenza = the flu
Commonly known as ‘the flu’, influenza is a highly contagious disease that can be serious, debilitating and affect the whole body. The flu is caused by a particular group of RNA viruses (Orthomyxoviridae) and is spread by infected people coughing or sneezing as well as from surfaces contaminated by respiratory secretions. So it’s easy to catch and spread and hard to avoid.
Influenza, or ‘the flu’ is an ever mutating bug that can leave you feeling like you’ve just been run over by a bus. Don’t get it confused with the common cold, which is much less severe – when you have the flu you will know it.
Seasonal influenza can be fatal to people in high risk groups.
Influenza is a potentially fatal disease estimated to cause more deaths than road accidents every year: between 1500 and 3500 influenza deaths annually.
Experts estimate that influenza in Australia causes more than 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 GP consultations per year.
Between 5% and 20% of the Australian population may be infected with influenza each year.
Children are much more likely to contract influenza in any given season: 20-50% compared with 10-30% in adults. Up to 70% of children become infected with the influenza virus during a pandemic. (A pandemic is the spread of an infectious disease – like the influenza RNA virus – over a large geographical area. With influenza though, it refers to worldwide spread of an influenza virus that has not previously been seen in humans).
Influenza is extremely contagious
Studies have shown that influenza can survive for:
- An hour or more in the air in enclosed environments
- More than 8 hours on hard surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic
- Up to 15 minutes if transferred from tissues to hands
- Up to 5 minutes after transfer from the environmental surfaces
- One of the hardest things about stopping the spread of the flu is that people can be contagious a day before experiencing any symptoms. Of course this means we are out and about and unfortunately spreading the virus before anyone knows they are unwell.
People at high risk of complications from influenza
People with underlying medical conditions:
- Heart conditions
- Severe asthma
- COPD and other lung conditions
- Diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
- Kidney problems
- Impaired immunity such as HIV infection
- Malignant cancers
- Chronic neurological disorders
People over 65 years of age
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island adults aged over 15 years
Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and are also at increased risk of severe complications from influenza.
Everybody should be protected by flu vaccination
Pretty much everyone can benefit from the flu vaccine. Remember, even if you’re fit and healthy you could pass the virus onto someone who is at risk of becoming very sick if they catch the flu.
If you care for children, older parents or any other at risk person then a flu shot is highly recommended.
Influenza is highly contagious and can be spread for up to a day before symptoms appear and for five days afterwards.