Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Most people recover after a few days but for some people it can be fatal. An influenza vaccination each year provides the best protection against influenza.
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza virus. There are two main types of human influenza viruses: A and B. There are also many sub-types and strains. Flu can occur throughout the year but is most common in autumn and winter. In most flu seasons there is more than one strain circulating in the community.
People with flu often experience some or all the following symptoms:
Some symptoms may last for more than a week. Some people may also experience very mild symptoms that don't last long, particularly if they have some immunity from a previous infection or vaccination.
While anyone can get flu, some people are at higher risk of severe illness (more likely to get very sick from flu, and may be at higher risk of needing hospital care), including:
People at higher risk of severe illness may be eligible for antiviral treatments such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu®). Antivirals reduce severe illness, hospitalisation and death from influenza if taken early in the illness. Speak with your GP to understand your options, so that you know what to do if you test positive for influenza. To be effective, antivirals must be provided within 48 hours of when symptoms first appear, so it's important to contact a GP as soon as possible.
If you can't contact a GP, call the NSW Health Flu and COVID-19 Care at Home Support Line on 1800 960 933.
People with flu can be infectious from the day before their symptoms start.
Some people are told they have flu when they have a PCR (nose and throat swab) test. You only need to test for flu if you are at
high risk of severe illness, or the illness itself is severe.
If you had a test at a PCR test clinic you may receive a SMS confirming you have influenza. Some providers test for multiple respiratory viruses and you may receive results for flu,
respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and
COVID-19 as well.
Flu is mostly spread by droplets made when people with flu cough or sneeze. It can also spread by touching a surface or object that virus droplets have landed on. People with flu can spread it to others before they are sick as well as while they are sick.
If you are sick with flu, stay at home and avoid close contact with other people. Keep sick children away from school and other activities. To avoid infecting others, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever has resolved and until you are feeling well. This is especially important if you visit people who are more likely to get really sick if they get the flu – including pregnant women, infants, older people or people in hospital or residential aged care.
Most symptoms can be managed with:
Please contact your GP or call the NSW Health Flu and COVID-19 Care at Home Support Line on 1800 960 933 if you are considered to be at
higher risk of severe illness.
If you have COVID-19 or flu and have health questions that are not a medical emergency, call your GP or Healthdirect 24/7 for free on 1800 022 222 for fast, expert health advice from registered nurses.
If your get any of the following symptoms call Triple Zero (000) immediately and tell the ambulance staff you could have flu.