Influenza – or the flu – is a virus that spreads quickly from person to person. Some people get very sick and influenza causes a number of deaths every year.
If you are concerned about the flu, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.
Anyone can get influenza. However, older people, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions are at more risk of developing serious complications from it, such as pneumonia. If you’re at higher risk, it is important to see your doctor early to find out if you need treatment.
From time to time a new influenza virus emerges that leads to a global epidemic, also known as a pandemic. The last flu pandemic occurred in 2009.
Immunisation is your best defence against the flu. The flu vaccine is free for people most at risk and protects against the common forms of flu.
The flu spreads quickly from person to person through touch. Coughing and sneezing also spreads the virus through the air. Flu can also be caught from surfaces that have been touched by people with influenza.
People with influenza can infect others, even before they have symptoms, and up to a week or longer after becoming sick. Children can infect others for a much longer period of time, even if they have no or very mild symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of influenza can include:
It may take between one to four days to feel symptoms after you catch influenza.
The worst symptoms usually last about five days, but coughing can last up to two to three weeks.
The best thing you can do is to get vaccinated each year. For many people, but not all, the influenza vaccine is provided free of charge.
If you think you may have influenza, consult your doctor for advice. Do not go to work, school or other activities until you are fully recovered and no longer infectious to others.
Auckland Regional Public Health Service provides information about how to manage outbreaks of influenza and is involved if a pandemic occurs.
Last updated 1.11.2023