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Written By THT Editorial Team

Sujata Shakya

Reviewed by Sujata Shakya, Public Health Practitioner, Assistant Professor, Public health (IOM)

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Influenza viruses are of different types (A, B, C) and are further classified into subtypes based on their surface antigens. Influenza is a significant public health concern, causing morbidity and mortality worldwide. This research-based article provides an overview of the causes, prevention, and management of influenza.

Causes of Influenza:

Influenza is caused by influenza viruses, which primarily target the respiratory system. The viruses spread mainly through respiratory droplets generated when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Influenza viruses can also spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.

Prevention of Influenza:

Preventing influenza infections is critical to reducing the burden of illness. Several strategies can help prevent influenza, including:

Vaccination: Influenza vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza infections. The influenza vaccine is designed to match the circulating influenza viruses and provides immunity against the viruses. Annual vaccination is recommended for all individuals aged six months and older (1).

Non-pharmaceutical Interventions: Non-pharmaceutical interventions such as frequent hand washing, covering the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve while coughing or sneezing, and staying home when sick can reduce the spread of influenza viruses (2).

Antiviral Medications: Antiviral medications can be used to prevent influenza infections, especially in high-risk population, such as immunocompromised individuals, older adults, and those with underlying medical conditions. Antivirals can also be used for post-exposure prophylaxis in individuals who have been in close contact with an infected person (3).

Management of Influenza:

Influenza infections can range from mild to severe, and management approaches depend on the severity of the illness. The following management approaches are commonly used:

Symptomatic Treatment: Symptomatic treatment, such as antipyretics and analgesics, can alleviate symptoms such as fever, body aches, and headaches. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used for the relief of symptoms (4).

Antiviral Medications: Antiviral medications can be used to treat influenza infections, especially in individuals at high risk for complications, such as older adults, young children, pregnant women, and those with underlying medical conditions. Treatment with antivirals should be started within 48 hours of onset of symptoms (3).

Hospitalization: Severe influenza infections can require hospitalization, especially in individuals at high risk for complications. Supportive care, including oxygen therapy, mechanical ventilation, and antiviral medications, may be needed (5).

Examples of Preventative Measures:

In addition to vaccination and non-pharmaceutical interventions, several examples of preventative measures can be implemented to reduce the spread of influenza, such as:

Environmental Cleaning: Regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, keyboards, and countertops, can reduce the spread of influenza viruses (2).

School Closures: Closing schools during influenza outbreaks can reduce the spread of influenza viruses. School closures should be implemented early and for an extended period to be effective (6).

Social Distancing: Social distancing measures such as avoiding large gatherings, working from home, and staying home when sick can reduce the spread of influenza viruses (7).


Influenza is a significant public health concern, leading to morbidity and mortality worldwide. Preventing influenza infections through vaccination, non-pharmaceutical interventions, and antiviral medications is critical to reducing the burden of illness. Environmental cleaning, school closures, and social distancing are examples of additional preventative measures that can be implemented. By adopting these preventive measures and following evidence-based management approaches, the impact of influenza can be minimized, protecting individuals and communities.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Key facts about seasonal flu vaccine. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Preventing the flu: Good health habits can help stop germs. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/actions-prevent-flu.htm
  3. Uyeki, T. M., Bernstein, H. H., & Bradley, J. S. (2019). Clinical practice guidelines by the Infectious Diseases Society of America: 2018 update on diagnosis, treatment, chemoprophylaxis, and institutional outbreak management of seasonal influenza. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 68(6), e1-e47.
  4. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2017). Acute respiratory tract infections: Prescribing of antibiotics for self-limiting respiratory tract infections in adults and children in primary care. Retrieved from https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng109
  5. Fry, A. M., Goswami, D., Nahar, K., Sharmin, A. T., Rahman, M., Gubareva, L., … & Azim, T. (2019). Efficacy of oseltamivir treatment started within 5 days of symptom onset to reduce influenza illness duration and virus shedding in an urban setting in Bangladesh: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 19(2), 209-218.
  6. Jackson, C., Vynnycky, E., Hawker, J., Olowokure, B., Mangtani, P., & The UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy Expert Group. (2013). School closures and influenza: systematic review of epidemiological studies. BMJ Open, 3(2), e002149.
  7. Glass, R. J., Glass, L. M., Beyeler, W. E., & Min, H. J. (2006). Targeted social distancing design for pandemic influenza. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 12(11), 1671-1681.