Illustration: Why you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of flu

Why you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of flu

Published 02 September 2019

Influenza is a viral infection that can have significant consequences for your daily life, including work, school and family life.

Influenza, or the "flu", is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus.1 It is one of the most common infectious diseases and represents a serious threat to public health. In fact, the flu causes up to 650,000 deaths around the world and is responsible for up to 5 million cases of severe disease every year.2

Recognising how the flu virus can impact your life is important in today’s busy world, especially if you have many people depending on you – your partner, children or your colleagues. Unfortunately, having the flu means you may be unable to carry out your normal daily activities for some time.3,4

Having the flu can have a big impact on your work

When it comes to work, coming down with the flu can put you in a dilemma. On one hand, you may want to "tough it out" so you can meet deadlines, not let work colleagues down or allow productivity to suffer. It is recognised that flu can have a considerable financial impact on those infected through days lost at work and productivity.2,5 However, going into work when you suspect that you may have flu may not be such a good idea. The flu virus can spread to others 24 hours before you start to feel sick, and for up to 5–7 days after the first symptoms appear.1 Furthermore, it can take up to 6 days after you start displaying symptoms before you feel able to return to work3

Influenza is highly contagious from the day before symptoms develop, and for up to 5–7 days after you become sick.1
  • You will need to avoid contact with others.6
  • You should stay at home for at least 4–5 days after the onset of symptoms.6
  • The more people you interact with, the more the infection will spread.7

Catching the flu may have a considerable health impact

It is not just the elderly or frail who can get the flu – people of all ages can be affected. However, some people, including the elderly, pregnant women or people with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease) are at higher risk for infection and complications.1

People of all ages can be affected by the flu. However, some people are at higher risk than others:1
  • Children
  • Pregnant women
  • Adults over 65 years
  • Individuals who have weakened immune systems (immunocompromised)


Recognising the severity of flu

It is important that you do not underestimate the severity of flu.8,9

  • Flu symptoms appear suddenly, usually within 24 hours of infection.4
  • Fever and associated symptoms last between 3–8 days.4
  • You can feel unwell even after the fever has resolved and this can last for up to 2 weeks.4

A flu infection can range from mild to severe illness,7,10 and some symptoms can lead to secondary complications.11 Without timely, appropriate treatment, flu can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus infections.12 Although flu is usually mild-to-moderate in the majority of those infected, for some people who are considered high-risk, severe illness and even death can occur.7

Do you need to seek medical treatment for flu?

If you have the flu, it will have a significant impact on your home and work life. This highlights how important it is to seek medical attention as soon as you realise you have the flu, in order to shorten the duration and impact of your illness.7,13

Tags: Society, Influenza