Preventing flu - anti-flu vaccination
Annual anti-flu vaccination is the main prevention measure for flu.
The vaccinations available in Spain are all inactive (they do not contain the flu virus, just part of the virus) and they are administered by intramuscular injection in a single dose. The side effects of the vaccination are not very common and generally mild (pain, hardening and redness at the injection site that do not restrict activity).
The purpose of the anti-flu vaccination is to generate protection against the flu virus strains that circulate in the flu season. There are normally changes in these strains each year. Vaccinations must therefore be prepared each year to include the strains that are most likely to be responsible for flu cases in the coming season. Vaccinations are manufactured based on strains recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The effectiveness of the anti-flu vaccination in preventing hospitalisation due to flu and pneumonia ranges from 30% to 70%. 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.
The vaccination is particularly recommended for people at high risk of suffering complications in the event of a flu infection:
- People aged 60 or above, as well as those who live in closed institutions.
- People under 60 at high risk of presenting flu complications: 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.
- Healthcare staff and other people who may transmit flu to those at high risk of complications.
As well as vaccination, there are a series of hygiene measures that help to prevent flu:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing, and then throw it away.
- It is essential to wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 15-30 seconds and dry them properly (especially after touching shared surfaces such as handrails, door handles, computer keyboards and mice, telephones, supports on public transport and after sneezing and blowing your nose), or with alcohol solutions by rubbing your hands for 15-30 seconds.
- Enclosed spaces should be kept ventilated.
- Avoid close contact with people who have flu and do not share food or utensils with them (such as cutlery, glasses, serviettes and napkins) or other objects without cleaning them properly.
If you get symptoms of flu or the doctor has diagnosed you with the illness, you should make sure not to share enclosed spaces with people for the first 3-5 days, especially people who are ill in hospital and community care workers.