What you need to know about the prevention, avoidance, and treatment of the dreaded winter virus in Prague
Flu is typically transmitted via the coughs and sneezes of a person already infected with the virus, but can also be passed on by contact with other bodily fluids.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms include:
• Sore throats
• Aching muscles
How long does flu last?
Normally flu lasts for around a week, although feelings of weakness or a cough can linger on for some time afterwards.
How serious is it?
Although very unpleasant, and a more serious illness than the common cold, flu isn't dangerous for most of the population.
For some at-risk groups, however, flu can lead to serious medical conditions, develop into pneumonia and even cause death.
Who's most at risk from flu?
The very young, the old, and people with certain medical conditions are most at risk. These include lung diseases (asthma, for instance), diabetes, cancer, kidney or heart problems.
What can I do to avoid flu?
Vaccination is the only proven way of significantly reducing your exposure to flu. (See below for more details.)
There are sensible measures you can take, however, to raise your overall level of health and strengthen your immune system:
• Get plenty of rest
• Eat healthily
• Exercise regularly
• Don't smoke
• Avoid people who are coughing and sneezing
(Avoiding crowds altogether could be helpful but, in a city of 1.2 million people, isn't really all that practical...)
How long does flu remain contagious?
Someone with flu is normally contagious one day before the symptoms develop, and remains infectious up to seven days after becoming ill.
Do flu vaccinations really work?
Because strains of influenza change and develop, flu vaccinations aren't infallible but they'll prevent you catching most strains of flu.
A flu shot won't, however, prevent you catching colds or other non-flu viruses.
How do flu vaccinations work?
Usually, the vaccine contains various strains of dead flu virus. This fools your body into producing the antibodies needed to fight off the illness before you actually catch it.
Does that mean that a flu vaccination is actually giving me the flu?
No. Vaccinations contain only dead virus, and won't give you the flu.
How often should I get a flu vaccination?
For those most at risk from the virus (see above), health officials recommend getting a flu vaccination every year.
And for the rest of the population, because strains of influenza change, and new types appear, an annual flu shot is still a good idea.
When should I get a flu vaccination?
Epidemics are most common in the winter, so it makes sense to get a flu shot in the autumn.
How do I get a flu vaccination in Prague?
Simply visit a general practitioner (practický lekář) or vaccination clinic (hygienické stanice) in the autumn. Expect to pay no more than a couple of hundred crowns.
For a list of vaccination clinics in Prague, see the Hygienická stanice hlavního města Prahy website (in Czech).
I have the flu! Help me get better!
For most flu sufferers, the best advice seems to be:
• Get plenty of rest
• Drink plenty of liquids
• Eat what you can
Over-the-counter cold medicines can also provide some relief.
If you're particularly at risk from flu, a doctor should be able to prescribe an antiviral medicine.
Do antibiotics help tackle flu?
Antibiotics have no effect on viruses like flu.
But antibiotics might be needed if you develop complications -- a chest infection, for instance, or pneumonia.
'flu, influenza = chřipky
vaccination = očkování
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