Workforce Flu Vaccination Programmes

Frequently Asked Questions about Influenza

Seasonal Influenza

  1. What is Influenza

    Influenza, or “flu”, is an infection caused by a virus. The influenza virus generally affects the nose, throat and the lungs.

    There are three types of influenza virus: A, B and C. Most outbreaks of influenza are caused by type A viruses. Influenza viruses mutate and change each year, which is why the influenza immunisation needs to be administered each year to ensure that protection is given against each year’s circulating strains.

  2. Who is likely to get influenza?

    Anyone can catch flu and it affects people of all ages, including healthy people. School children tend to have the highest rates of infection as they are less aware of hand hygiene.

    Most influenza infections occur during the season from October to March in the Northern Hemisphere.

    The amount of illness occurring each year varies and depends largely on how many people are susceptible to the current influenza strain that is circulating the globe.

    If the new influenza virus differ greatly from previous types then the population will not have much immunity and a pandemic situation can arise. Some influenza viruses cause more severe illness than others.

  3. How infectious is influenza?

    Influenza is very infectious and spreads rapidly from person to person. Some strains of the influenza virus seem more infectious than others, or may cause more severe illness.

  4. What is the incubation period?

    The incubation period is short, generally one to three days, though it can sometimes take up to 5 days for symptoms to appear.

  5. What is influenza like?

    Influenza is much worse than the common cold. Symptoms usually start with a high fever of 38.9 - 40.00C (102 – 1040F) which lasts up to three to four days and sometimes longer. Headaches, chills and a dry cough are common as are general muscle aches and pains which can be severe and result in the individual needing to take to their bed. A stuffy nose, sneezing and a sore throat can also be present though not always. Some children may also feel sick (nausea), or have vomiting and diarrhoea. Fatigue and tiredness can last up to three weeks.

    Influenza is caused by a virus so antibiotics do not work unless the individual has a complication such as pneumonia. Occasionally a special “antiviral” medicine will be given.

  6. How serious is influenza?

    Most people recover completely from influenza in within a week or so, though fatigue can persist up to 2-3 weeks. For those with underlying health problems such as diabetes or heart or chest problems and the very young and the elderly, the symptoms can be much more serious with complications such as pneumonia.

  7. How soon should you return to work or school after having influenza?

    It is best to stay at home when you have influenza as this also reduces the chance of spreading the infection to others. Influenza is most infectious from about a day before symptoms start until about three days later, however as influenza can leave the individual feeling very fatigued, they should return to work or school once they feel well enough.

  8. How should influenza be treated?

    Most individuals with influenza do not need any special treatment and simple measures such as paracetamol and plenty of fluids to drink will help with symptoms. You can also ask your pharmacist for advice on influenza remedies to help alleviate the symptoms. Aspirin MUST NOT be given to children as it has been associated rarely with the development of a severe neurological disorder called Reye’s syndrome.

  9. Should I contact my doctor?

    There is no need to contact your doctor unless you have a chronic heart or chest condition, including asthma, chronic kidney disease, diabetes or any other serious medical condition. However, if your symptoms do not settle after four or five days, or if you are worried, you might want to contact the doctor by telephone to discuss your symptoms and get advice.

  10. Coughing/sneezing etiquette

    As individuals we all have a part to play in trying to reduce the spread of flu:-

    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
    • Dispose of your tissue in the nearest bin.
    • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
    • Now remember to wash your hands in warm water for 20 seconds concentrating on all areas.
  11. Can you prevent influenza?

    Yes, by undergoing a yearly seasonal vaccination against influenza.

Flu Vaccinations

The flu vaccination is an effective way of helping to keep yourself and the people with whom you live or work, protected from the flu.

  1. Who should have the flu vaccination?

    Influenza vaccine is particularly recommended for :

    • People of any age with chronic heart, lung and metabolic disorders (including severe asthma and diabetes). People of any age with kidney problems, or a lowered immune system due to treatment or disease.
    • Everyone aged 65 years and over.
    • Those in long-stay residential care , as the influenza can spread rapidly in care homes, prisons, and hospitals due to the large number of individuals present.
    • It is recommended that immunisation be offered to certain healthcare to reduce the possibly of health care staff passing on the infection to sick and vulnerable patients, as well as to reduce staff from needing to go sick with influenza which can cause a shortage of staff to care for patients in a hospital or care home environment.
  2. Why do I need a flu vaccination?

    Flu is more serious than having a heavy cold and generally lasts longer and can leave you feeling ‘run down’ for weeks afterwards. The flu vaccination will provide you with excellent protection from seasonal flu.

  3. I’m fit and healthy and I’ve never had flu before so why should I have a flu vaccination?

    Flu is transmitted through air droplets from someone coughing or sneezing; from close contact with someone who has flu or from touching contaminated objects. Young, fit and healthy people can still get infected.

  4. If I do have the vaccination could I still catch the flu?

    In the highly unlikely event that you do catch the flu, the illness will be in a milder form.

  5. When is the best time to have a flu vaccination?

    The best time to receive the influenza vaccine is in the autumn before the flu season begins.

  6. Can I have the flu vaccination if I have a cold?

    You can have the flu vaccination whilst you have a cold but it’s best not have the vaccination if you have a fever as it may not be so effective.

  7. Does the flu vaccination have any unpleasant after effects?

    The vaccine is very safe and side effects are uncommon and usually mild, possibly a mild fever. Your arm might be a little sore after the injection.

  8. I’ve heard that if you have the flu vaccination, you will then have a mild dose of the flu - is this true?

    No - The flu vaccine doesn’t contain live viruses and therefore it can’t give you flu. However, flu vaccination may cause a slight fever whilst the body is making antibodies to protect you, but this is not the same as the flu and usually passes after a few hours.

  9. Can pregnant women have the flu vaccination?

    Yes. Pregnant women are at higher risk of developing complications associated with H1N1 flu and the flu vaccination is strongly recommended.

  10. How long does the flu vaccination last for?

    You should have your flu vaccination on an annual basis. A new influenza vaccine is produced each year and the type of influenza vaccination is decided upon by the World Health Organisation whose research identifies the new types of influenza strains that are likely to circle the globe in the winter months in both the southern and Northern hemisphere.

For further information about International SOS's flu vaccination service, please email For further information about International SOS's flu vaccination service, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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