Spanish Flag      Italian Flag     Flag UK US      French Flag     zhongwen
International Health Cover > Resources > Health and Safety Articles >  Seasonal Flu


 An overview on seasonal flu: symptoms, complications, treatment and prevention


The Influenza virus

Flu is a respiratory infection caused by many different types of viruses, known as influenza viruses. It generally occurs in outbreaks, mainly in the late fall and winter, and affects a large number of people every year.

Influenza rapidly spreads through communities, but usually remains temporarily and geographically localized (this situation is known as an epidemic). However, sometimes it happens that a new particularly virulent strain of influenza virus arises, spreads easily and rapidly from person to person and from country to country, thereby affecting a large proportion of the population worldwide. This phenomenon is said to be a pandemic, exemplified by the recent H1N1 outbreak.   

Regardless of the particular strain involved, all influenza viruses are carried through the air in moisture droplets and are spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing.

After the virus has entered the body through the nose or mouth, it causes a number of symptoms, including fever, chills, cough, throat soreness, headache and body or muscle aches. Flu symptoms generally appear after 1-3 days after exposure to the virus, last for 2 to 10 days and usually go away on their own, even without treatment.

Possible life-threatening complications

However flu can sometimes lead to serious, even life-threatening complications, especially in newborn babies, elderly people and people with immunodepression or chronic diseases, who can develop pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections, muscle inflammation, as well as infections affecting the central nervous system and the heart. That's why prevention is paramount for these groups of people.

The usefulness of vaccination* against seasonal Flu

Vaccination is the most effective preventive measure against influenza. In this respect it is important to remember that influenza viruses are extremely changeable: every year a new strain of influenza virus arises, which is different from that of the previous year and is not recognizable to the human immune system. For this reason a new flu vaccine must be developed every year.

Influenza vaccination is recommended for people at higher risk for complications (elderly people, pregnant women and people with certain health chronic conditions, like heart disease, asthma and diabetes), as well as for people particularly exposed to infection, such as those working in health care settings.

Note that, although newborn babies are at a high risk of developing influenza complications, they should not be vaccinated until they are 6 months old, due to possible vaccine adverse reactions.

 It is also important to note that the vaccine against seasonal (epidemic) influenza does not provide protection against H1N1 influenza, as well as the vaccine against H1N1 is not protective against seasonal influenza.

Therefore, people who are recommended to receive influenza vaccine need to have two separate vaccines, one against seasonal flu and one against H1N1 flu.

For those who have not received the vaccine and fall ill with influenza, the treatment is purely symptomatic and includes rest, the use of anti-fever medications, nasal decongestants and anti-cough products. Antiviral medicines are also available by prescription, to relieve flu symptoms and reduce the duration of the disease by two or three days.

 The cost of any vaccination or treatment can be covered by an appropriate international health insurance plan.

 International Health Cover is an International Health care Insurance advisor. We  offer 100% free advice to help you choose over a wide range of International Medical Insurance plans.

Please do not hesitate to ask for a free quotation. Alternatively, you may also choose to contact one of our highly trained advisor.

*Always seek professional medical advise from a qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.