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Flu is an infectious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus, of which there are three types (A, B and C) and various sub-types.  It is an illness that can present in a wide range of clinical forms: from asymptomatic infections to respiratory pictures that may undergo complications. The flu viruses circulate during the winter months in Spain, producing seasonal epidemics. The flu viruses that circulate each season do not have the same pathogenicity and different people's susceptibility to the viruses is not the same. The intensity of flu epidemics therefore changes year on year, both in terms of the number of people affected and with regard to the clinical picture of the infections. Anti-flu vaccination is the most effective primary prevention measure to prevent flu and its complications.



Flu is transmitted from an ill person to another person through droplets expelled when coughing and sneezing. The transmission period starts from the day before symptoms appear and persists for five days afterwards.  

It is estimated that seasonal flu may affect between 5% and 20% of the general population, and that approximately 25% of febrile respiratory processes may be produced by the flu. This increased morbidity gives rise to a large number of medical consultations and absences from work as a consequence of the disease. Moreover, some people, such as older people, those with chronic illnesses, immuno-suppressed people and pregnant women, among others, may suffer more from the illness and it is common for them to experience complications during its evolution. Flu thus continues to be a major public health issue.



Flu presents heightened fever, dry cough, headache and neck ache, muscle pain and general illness. It can also cause diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, especially in young children. In most cases, people recover in 7-10 days.


Who is affected by the condition?

Flu may affect anyone, but the most vulnerable to suffering complications are children under the age of 2, people aged 60 or above, pregnant women, morbidly obese people and people of any age who suffer from one of the following types of illness: cardiovascular, pulmonary (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma), neurological, neuromuscular, metabolic (including diabetes mellitus), kidney failure, immunosuppression, cancer, chronic liver diseases, asplenia and iron deficiencies.   



Flu diagnosis is normally clinical and does not require laboratory tests. Despite that fact, microbiological diagnosis is fundamental to be able to obtain aetiological confirmation in patients with risk factors and those with serious illnesses. The detection of the virus in respiratory samples can be done using cultures, antigen detection techniques and molecular methods.


Typical treatment

There is no specific treatment for flu. Treatment with analgesics and antipyretics (paracetamol) is recommended to alleviate or treat some of the symptoms associated with flu, such as fever or headache.

Antibiotics do not cure the flu. Only in cases where there is an overlying bacterial infection, such as pneumonia, or in those with chronic illnesses, may preventive antibiotic treatment be indicated to avoid complications.

Antivirals, such as oseltamivir or zanamivir, may be indicated in people at high risk of complications to reduce the duration of the flu and the possibility of complications, but they should begin to be taken within 48 hours from the outbreak of symptoms.



The best way of protecting yourself from the flu is vaccination and following good hygiene practices to prevent the spread of the virus. The purpose of anti-flu vaccination each year is to generate protection against the flu viruses that circulate in the flu season. Health authorities and scientific associations around the world unanimously recommend seasonal anti-flu vaccination for people at high risk.  Anti-flu vaccinations are very safe and well-tolerated with effectiveness that ranges from 30% to 70% to prevent hospitalisation due to flu and pneumonia. In older people living in institutions, vaccinations have proven to be between 50% and 60% effective to prevent hospitalisation or pneumonia, and 80% to prevent death by flu.


Notable professionals at Vall d’Hebron who treat this condition:

Dr. Tomas Pumarola, Dr. Andrés Antón, Dr. Magda Campins, Dr. Xavier Martínez, Dr. Benito Almirante, Dr. Assumpta Ricart, Dr. Carlos Rodrigo, Dr. Sebastián González. 





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Dr. Benito
Almirante Gragera
Head of Department
Infectious Diseases
Dra. Magda
Campins Martí
Head of Department
Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology
Epidemiology and Public Health
Dr. Tomàs
Pumarola Suñé
Head of Department
Dr. Joan
Balcells Ramírez
Head of Section
Paediatric Intensive Care
Lead Researcher
Clinical Research / Innovation in Pneumonia and Sepsis (CRIPS)
Dr. Juan José
González López
Dr. Andrés
Antón Pagarolas
Sra. Carmen
Ferrer Barbera
Nursing Supervisor
Infectious Diseases
Dr. Mateu
Espasa Soley
Person in charge/Coordinator
Dr. Adrián
Sánchez Montalvá
Sr. José María
Mata Márquez
Nursing Supervisor
Traumatology Intensive Care
Dr. Fernando
Salvador Vélez
Dr. Pau
Bosch Nicolau
Sra. Meritxell
Jiménez Llahí