Flu, or influenza, is a viral illness that occurs predominantly in the winter months in South Africa. It’s easily confused with the common cold, which is also a winter viral illness, although caused by other viruses.
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 and 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. They also be treated as soon as possible if complications develop.
Reviewed by Cape Town-based general practitioner, Dr Dalia Hack. March 2019.