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Influenza is more commonly known as the flu, a respiratory infection caused by various flu viruses. Flu is contagious and can enter the body through your eyes, nose or mouth. According to the Health Promotion Board, the influenza season in Singapore typically falls between May-July and December-February.




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The different types: A, B, C

There are hundreds of influenza viruses, but the 3 main types of virus responsible for causing influenza infections in humans are Type A, B and C. Type C generally causes mild respiratory illness and is less common than the other 2 strains. Type A and B virus are more common, often associated with annual outbreaks and epidemics, as in the case of H5N1 (2004) and H1N1 (2009).


How flu spreads

Flu is spread through tiny droplets when one sneezes, coughs or talk. When these droplets come in contact with people nearby (as far as 1.8 metres away) and land in their noses or mouths or get inhaled into the lungs, the person gets infected by the influenza virus. A person may also get infected by the flu virus by touching an object which has the flu virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Flu symptoms usually start to show 1-4 days after the virus enters the body. An infected person remains infectious from 1 day before the symptoms show, until 5-7 days after they exhibit symptoms of flu. This means that an infected person may still be able to spread the virus even when he or she exhibits no apparent symptoms of flu.



  • Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Rhinitis
  • Muscle Pain


Groups at risk

Influenza may result in complications such as pneumonia, hospitalisation or even death. These groups have a heightened risk of developing complications:

• Seniors 65 years and above

• Pregnant women

• Young children

• People with chronic disease such as asthma, heart diseases, chronic lung diseases etc.

• Residents in nursing homes and long term care facilities



Antiviral medications are usually prescribed to help with the symptoms of influenza. For the medication to be effective, they should be taken within the first 2 days of the onset of flu symptoms.


Should I get a flu shot?

It is recommended to get an influenza vaccination annually to protect yourself against the illness, especially for high risk groups and their caregivers. Different strains of the flu virus mutates over time, which explains why it is important to get one each year – it helps to ensure that you are protected against the recent strains of the virus. It will take about 2 weeks for the vaccination to take effect and produce antibodies to protect the body from the influenza virus.



  • Wear a mask and avoid close contact with people if you have the flu
  • Cover your nose and mouth with tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Clean your hands regularly.
  • Eat balanced, nutritious meals

Differentiating influenza from the common cold A common cold is very similar to influenza; both conditions usually start off with sneezing, stuffy nose, accompanied by cough and sore throat. However, if you have a severe headache or have a persistent high fever of 38°C to 41°C, you are likely to have influenza.

Source: Prime Magazine Dec - Jan 2017 Issue. Reproduced with permission.


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