Here are five flu facts you need to know to help protect you and your family from a severe strain of flu doing the rounds
It may only be autumn, but already doctors are reporting an increase in the number of people affected by a severe strain of flu.
Gerhard Van Emmenis, Principal Officer of Bonitas Medical Fund, shares five facts about flu and tips to help you avoid getting sick:
1. Flu strains, like fashion, change every year
The latest flu strain South Africa can expect is nicknamed ‘Aussie Flu’.
This particular strain – H3N2 – is a subtype of influenza A. The virus has been around for a while, but unfortunately, the flu strains have mutated so they outwit the body’s immune response. This is why each year the flu vaccinations are updated, meaning that last years’ vaccine won’t necessarily protect you from this year’s flu.
2. What are the symptoms of flu?
They include a high temperature, body pain, sore throat, tiredness, loss of appetite and are the same year in and year out. However, some flu strains may cause the symptoms to last for a longer time and be more severe.
The flu can also bring on headaches, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. In people with weaker immune systems, the flu is even more serious.
3. The flu shot doesn’t gives you flu
According to the Centre for Disease Control, a flu shot cannot cause flu and serious allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are rare. However, if you are allergic to eggs you need to notify your doctor.
Flu vaccines are currently made either with flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are not infectious, or with no flu viruses at all. The most common side-effects from the shot are small amounts of soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling around the injection site.
4. Protecting yourself and your family
The flu vaccine reduces your chance of getting flu and, if you do get it, it will be milder.
The vaccine trains your body to recognise flu and fight it. More importantly, if you are vaccinated you will protect others, via what is called ’herd immunity’. This includes vulnerable members of the family such as small babies and the elderly as well as those who are immune-compromised.
5. Some of the reasons people don’t vaccinate
Every year there is a debate about flu injections, yet up to 11 000 people die from flu in South Africa every year, despite the flu vaccination being readily available and paid for by most medical aid schemes.
There are a number of reasons, including the notion that ‘I don’t get flu’, ‘The vaccine doesn’t work’, ‘It will hurt my arm’ or ‘The vaccine will give me flu’.
However, according to Bonitas Medical Advisory Board, there are very good clinical reasons why you should have the vaccines.
Bonitas covers one flu vaccine for all members. Members can get the vaccine at no cost at Clicks, Dischem or Pick n Pay pharmacies, or attend a Bonitas Wellness Day.
While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.