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05 February 2013

What is flu?

Flu, or influenza, is a viral illness that occurs predominantly in the winter months in South Africa. It is easily confused with the common cold.

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 Flu, or influenza, is a viral illness that occurs predominantly in the winter months in South Africa. It is easily confused with the common cold, which is also a winter viral illness, although caused by another virus.

Flu spreads easily from person to person through droplet distribution when an infected person coughs or sneezes or, quite commonly, through hand-to-hand contact.

Influenza viruses can infect the nose, throat, sinuses, upper airways and lungs. In healthy children, young adults and middle-aged people the disease is mostly mild. Flu can, however, be life-threatening in older people, babies, toddlers and in people of any age who have certain underlying conditions.

Those who are at highest risk of contracting flu should do everything they can to prevent and avoid the illness and should be treated as soon as possible if complications develop.

(Reviewed by Dr Jane Yeats, Department of Virology, University of Cape Town 2006)

(Updated and reviewed by Dr Jean Maritz and Dr Leana Maree, medical virologists, Tygerberg Hospital and University of Stellenbosch 2010)

 
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