Why does influenza matter?

Influenza (flu) is a common, infectious, viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes.

It can be very unpleasant, but you'll usually begin to feel better within a week.

You can catch flu all year round, but it's especially common in winter, which is why it's also known as ‘seasonal flu’. Every winter, flu circulates in the community and many people will be affected by it.

Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, aching muscles, cough and sore throat – and because influenza is a virus, antibiotics won’t help.

Flu can lead to more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, or can make existing conditions worse. In the worst cases, flu can result in a stay in hospital or even death.

It’s estimated that 8,000 people die every year in the UK due to influenza, although this number can be higher in a bad season.

If you want to know more about the effects of flu in Northern Ireland, have a look at the Public Health Agency's surveillance reports.

Every year, front line healthcare workers should get vaccinated against flu to protect themselves, their families and their patients.

In recent years, adults of working age have been particularly affected by influenza, including getting the most serious complications. Read how to protect yourself by getting vaccinated.