Influenza – Everything you need to know

Influenza is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract that spreads easily from person to person. This means that the infection is contagious. Adults may be contagious from 1 day before feeling sick to up to 7 days after getting sick. Children can be contagious for longer than 7 days.

World Health Organisation estimates that approximately one billion people are infected and up to 500 000 people die from influenza each year. The greatest burden of illness usually occurs among children, while the highest burden of severe disease (in terms of hospitalisation and death) occurs in those with underlying medical conditions, infants and young children, and elderly people.

Influenza causes enormous morbidity, death and economic loss.

Symptoms to watch for:

  • Fever headache and confusion
  • Dry cough, sore throat and nasal congestion
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Muscle pains and fatigue


Usually a clinical Diagnosis. Doctor may take send a nasopharyngeal swab for testing.


They include viral or bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and ear infections and sinus infections, especially in children.

The flu can worsen long-term medical conditions, like congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. You might also have muscle inflammation (myositis), problems with your central nervous system, and heart problems such as heart attacks, inflammation of the organ (myocarditis), and inflammation of the sac around it (pericarditis).

Laboratory investigations to be done:

Patients admitted to hospital may have respiratory samples taken for testing by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), rapid antigen test, or immunofluorescence assay. With respiratory outbreaks in a closed setting (such as care homes, schools, hospitals) nasal swabs may be taken from the first few symptomatic individuals to identify the responsible organism.

Treatment plan:

Influenza is usually self limiting in healthy individuals. Treatment of uncomplicated disease in healthy individuals is supportive and includes antipyretics, adequate fluid intake, rest, and staying off work or school until 24 hours after resolution of fever to limit spread to others.

Antiviral treatment may be given in some scenarios. It will shorten the duration of illness and to some extent reduce the chance of complications. Treatment is most effective if started within 48 hours of symptom onset, and it should not be delayed while awaiting results of investigations


Vaccination is the most effective means of preventing influenza and its complications. Immunity developed in one influenza season may not provide protection in future years mainly because of changes in circulating strains, antigenic drift, and waning immunity. Influenza vaccines are updated annually to include the viral strains that are predicted to circulate in winter

Group who require vaccination are:

  • Adult over 65 years old
  • Individuals with underlying chronic health conditions
  • Individuals with reduced immunity like people with HIV infection, people on chemotherapy treatments
  • Pregnant women
  • Morbidly obese individuals
  • Health and social care workers
  • Individuals who care for vulnerable people

Tips for the prevention of influenza ( FLU):

  • Take time to get flu vaccine.  (The single best way to prevent influenza is to get vaccinated every year.)
  • Take everyday preventive actions like washing hands before eating a meal  
  • Avoid close contact with infected individuals
  • Cover your mouth and nose while sneezing and coughing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Practice healthy habits like regular exercise, enough rest, and eat healthy balanced meals.

-Dr.Keerthiman kancherla

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