Influenza, more commonly known as “flu”, is a highly contagious viral disease. The influenza virus attacks with more intensity during the winter months. Symptoms can be mild, but the virus can also cause severe illness and even death, particularly for those in the high-risk groups (the very young, people over 55, those with an underlying health condition, those who are pregnant, overweight or who have a weakened immune system). Symptoms usually last between three and seven days, although in some instances they can persist for several weeks.
The virus spreads through water droplets, especially when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or via contaminated hands and surfaces.
Hygiene measures adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as washing your hands, coughing into your elbow and keeping your distance, are good habits to keep up, as they are effective in helping to reduce the chance of contracting and/or spreading the flu virus.
The vaccine remains the best way to protect yourself against flu, to prevent the spread of the disease and to reduce its severity, in particular if you’re part of a high-risk group.
An international panel of experts carefully reviews the strain composition of the vaccine annually based on data from epidemiological centres and then makes recommendations to countries accordingly as to what strains they might wish to include in their national flu vaccine programme.
It takes about two weeks for an adequate immune response and protection to develop, and immunity tends to decline over the course of a few months. It is thus important to get a flu vaccine every year.
The flu vaccine will be available free of charge to anyone working on the CERN site, including contractors. Practical details of this year’s flu vaccination campaign, which will run from 17 October until 11 November, can be found at https://hse.cern/fluvaccination.