1. Influenza is an infection of the respiratory system (nose, throat and lungs) caused by the influenza virus or sometimes better known as the flu virus. Although many of us misused the term ‘flu’ to describe common cold caused by milder virus.
2. Influenza can be a deadly infection and usually manifests in a more serious condition which require hospitalisation instead of just outpatient treatment.
3. Common symptoms of influenza – high fever, chills, body ache, lethargy, cough, runny and blocked nose, breathing difficulty, vomitting, diarrhoea, headache and sore throat.
4. The virus is spread via human to human transmission – in cough droplets and saliva when talking or sneezing. One may also get infected after touching the mouth and nose with hands that was in contact with door knobs, wall and other surfaces (usually in the public area) contaminated with the virus.
5. Infection is spread faster in amongst children who are in contact with many other kids in kindergartens and schools.
6. You can spread the infection to other people within the one week of your infection. It is important to practice hand hygiene and avoid contact with other people.
7. The infection has a higher chance to cause severe complications in young children, pregnant women and the elderly.
8. Influenza infection can cause death and severe complications. It can cause severe lung inflammation, brain inflammation, severe ear infections and sinusitis.
9. Influenza symptoms can be almost similar from other viral fever so it cannot be determined only by physical examination. A rapid test such as nose swab test can be done or further evaluation by specific laboratory tests will be done
10. Treatment – You should go see a doctor if you have the symptoms possibly due to influenza. An antivirus may be given especially to the high risk groups to prevent complication and to shorten the duration of infection by about 2 days.
11. Prevention is better than cure. We are encouraged to get yearly vaccine against Influenza. It is commonly available in family and paediatric clinics.
Written by Dr Foo Chee Hoe