Written by Dr. Sherif Fayed, Pulmonary Specialist
Influenza, commonly known as flu, is a highly contagious disease caused by the influenza virus.
Everyone is encouraged to get the flu vaccine, but it is strongly recommended that the following groups are immunised because they are at higher risk of serious complications from flu:
- Pregnant women
- The elderly
- Aboriginal people aged over 15 years
- People with certain health conditions such as heart or kidney disease or a weakened immune system.
Flu can make existing medical conditions worse, and can cause high fever and pneumonia. It is easily spread by coughing, sneezing, or touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth or nose. Good hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread of flu and other infections.
Pneumonia, the inflammation of the lungs, accounts for a sizeable number of fatalities among the aged and the young.
Among the elderly in particular, the disease often goes neglected. It is often very late in the day that realisation comes, and elderly persons with compromised immunity quickly go into respiratory failure or acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Unlike children, who are (in some countries) mandatorily required to be vaccinated before the age of five, the elderly are (above 60 years) seldom inoculated.
There are many arguments in favour of and against the pneumonia vaccine. However, many doctors accept that getting oneself vaccinated is better than taking no medication at all.