Flu FAQs

(and excuses for not getting a Flu Injection)
How to tell the difference between Covid-19, Flu & a Cold?

While the three have many symptoms in common, there are key differences, both in symptoms and in severity. A cold can make you feel pretty miserable, but it is far less serious than either the flu or COVID-19, so it’s important to work out which one you’re suffering from.

If you have a fever, chills, breathlessness, or muscle pains, it’s unlikely to be just a cold; COVID-19 and the flu need to be considered as possibilities.

Take a look at the graphic below for more information:

What is Influenza (Flu)?
Influenza (commonly known as “the flu”) is caused by a variety of strains of flu viruses. Symptoms may vary with age, immune status, and health of the individual.

Symptoms may include fever, a sore throat, muscle aches, headache, cough, and severe fatigue. The fever and body aches can last three to five days, and the cough and fatigue may last two or more weeks.

Why should I get the vaccine?

Here are a few reasons why getting your annual flu vaccine is a good idea:


  1. Protect friends and family. Of the approximately 26% of the population that were infected with influenza… Around 80% (or 4 out of 5 people) infected with the flu show no symptoms; but even asymptomatic carriers can still spread/transmit the flu among their family, friends, and co-workers. Whether or not you’re symptomatic, you’ll be infectious; healthy adults with the flu are infectious for up to five days, and children with the flu are infectious for up to two weeks.
  2. Flu can kill. Many people underestimate how dangerous the flu can be to our most vulnerable community members. Make no mistake; flu can kill the most vulnerable amongst us, including our children, pregnant women, the immunocompromised, and the over 65s. By vaccinating yourself, you are reducing the risk of passing the flu virus onto them and putting them in harm’s way.
  3. Consider the way viruses spread: your workmate may have a pregnant partner or baby at home. That person beside you in the supermarket may be undergoing chemo for cancer, and you just sneezed, spraying your surroundings with flu-laden droplets that you didn’t know you were carrying. You won’t always know who in your environment is vulnerable; think of the big picture when considering whether to get the flu vaccine.
I’m too healthy to get sick...
  • An immune system that’s working at full capacity is a wonderful thing. But even a healthy person can still get the flu, they just may not be as symptomatic. And an asymptomatic person is much more likely to go about their business as per usual and unknowingly spread the virus to those they come in contact with. 


    • A serious illness caused by flu can lead to hospitalisation and can cause death at any age.
    • Young people with chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease are more at risk of complications from the flu.
    • Do you work out? How good is the product that your gym cleans the machines/gear with? Do they even get cleaned? What about the handles on the trolleys in the supermarket? Do you wear a face mask 24/7? How regularly do you wash your hands? Consider who uses equipment after you.
    • Are you working in an air-conditioned environment? Who is breathing the same air you do, breathing in your flu virus with every lungful of oxygen?
I never get sick
As in the previous FAQ, it’s wonderful that your immune system works so well. But lacking symptoms does not mean you aren’t a carrier of a virus, and a carrier can still infect others.
And even if you’ve never knowingly had flu in the past, that doesn’t mean you won’t or can’t get a current or future strain.
Your ethnicity can impact how your body responds to the flu virus as well: did you know that Pacific people have higher hospitalisation rates for severe flu-related infections than Maori? Or that both Pacific and Maori have higher hospitalisation rates than those of other ethnicities?
Can the vaccine give me the flu?
In a word, no! These vaccines are made from flu viruses that have been concentrated, deactivated, and then broken apart. No part of the vaccine is ‘live’.
When you are vaccinated, your body responds by producing an immune response, which can include fever, headache, muscle aches, or fatigue. This can sometimes be mistaken as ‘flu’.
There are other respiratory viruses and bacteria that circulate during winter; the flu vaccine does not protect against those, meaning you can still catch other illnesses unrelated to the flu strains you’ve been immunised against.
Keeping in mind that the immunisation takes between 4 days and 2 weeks to give you maximum protection, so if you have already been exposed to the flu prior to your vaccine or are exposed immediately after receiving it, you may still develop symptoms. Immunisation is still the best protection against the flu; even if you caught the flu after being immunised, your symptoms are less likely to be severe.
Never had a flu vaccination before, why should I start now?

Here are a few facts to consider:
• Having a flu vaccine each year can keep older people healthy and active for longer.
• Flu vaccines significantly lower hospitalisation rates for patients with Type 2 diabetes due to having a stroke, heart failure, pneumonia, and/or severe flu symptoms.
• Obesity has been associated with severe flu and flu-related hospitalisations due to respiratory symptoms in adults aged 45 years and over.
• Flu vaccination can prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of major events such as heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke.
• The flu vaccine is as effective, if not more effective, at reducing cardiovascular events as giving up smoking, taking blood pressure-lowering meds, or cholesterol-lowering meds.

I’m really not interested or don’t believe in vaccines…
Some people have their own reasons for choosing not to have the flu vaccine. While everyone is entitled to their individual beliefs, we encourage everyone to base their decisions on scientific facts rather than on other people’s opinions or beliefs.
There is a large body of scientific evidence supporting flu vaccinations, and contrary to some conspiracy theories, the studies are not done by the companies selling the vaccines.
The Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research & Surveillance Serosurvey (SHIVERS) is a huge study being undertaken by New Zealand Researchers, and not funded by drug companies. Please do your due diligence by reading its findings before you make your choice regarding vaccines.
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