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The flu viruses that circulate can change from year to year. Completely new flu viruses can emerge and cause global pandemics.
The official flu season runs from May to September, and although anyone can get the flu, it doesn’t mean you will definitely get it every year. People who are fit and well are better able to ward off the flu. If you eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep, your body will be in good shape to fight back against any invading flu virus.
So, how do you get the flu? The flu is a viral infection passed from person to person via infected droplets commonly spread by sneezing and coughing.
Symptoms of flu include:
• a fever greater or equal to 38°C
• at least one respiratory symptom, like a cough, sore throat, or runny nose
• rapid onset with at least one systemic symptom, like a headache, aches and pains, sweats or chills, or fatigue.
Flu symptoms are severe and are not to be confused with cold symptoms – with the flu you often don’t have the energy to get out of bed.
Some people are more at risk of getting the flu than others. The Ministry of Health has identified that the following groups are at higher risk of developing complications from flu viruses and are therefore eligible for a free flu vaccine. They include those who:
• are pregnant
• are significantly overweight
• use asthma preventers
• have diabetes
• are aged 65 years or over
• have heart disease
• have kidney problems
• have a serious medical condition, like cancer.
If you are unlucky enough to get the flu, you should stop the spread of flu germs by:
• staying in bed and not going to work or school
• covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze
• regularly washing your hands and drying them thoroughly
• avoid crowded settings.
This may all sound like doom and gloom, but flu prevention is better than cure. Help prevent flu by:
• washing your hands thoroughly and often and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
• eating a balanced diet with fruit and vegetables rich in vitamin C
• getting enough sleep
• reducing your stress levels
• getting regular exercise.
And remember that flu can cause serious complications, like pneumonia, which can be deadly. So look after your health – it is your most cherished possession.