What is the flu virus?

What is the flu virus?

Influenza (flu) is an infection caused by the influenza virus. It occurs every year, usually with a peak during the winter, and is spread through the air (by coughs and sneezes), by physical contact (such as shaking hands) and by transfer to the nose or mouth area, for example when eating.

The incubation period of the virus (that is to say the time before symptoms start to show) is between two and five days. Unlike with a cold, the symptoms of flu (fever, headache, extreme tiredness and an aching body) come on suddenly and generally last about a week.

There are often other symptoms too, such as a sore throat, dry cough and stuffy nose, lack of appetite and even vomiting and diarrhoea, which can leave you feeling so unwell you, may have to spend a few days in bed resting. It is worth noting that symptoms may be less specific in young children.

If your symptoms persist for more than seven days (five for children), we recommend consulting your doctor.
If you have further concerns about flu, including Swine flu visit our FAQ’s to learn more, including how you can try to avoid catching it and how to get help should you need it.

There is an old saying that you can tell the difference between a cold and flu by the £50 note test…. If you really have flu and you saw a £50 note left outside, you wouldn’t even have the inclination to get out of bed and retrieve it. If you were suffering from the common cold, the chances are you’d soon be £50 richer!


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