Since the start of flu season in October 2019, 2,768,000 cases across the country have been confirmed by laboratory tests, according to data from InfluNet published on January 19.
A total of 488,000 cases were reported last week alone, signalling that flu season is hitting its peak in January as predicted.
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240 deaths have so far been reported, slightly lower than the expected 258. Most of the fatal cases are elderly patients who suffered complications after contracting the virus.
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system.
Flu symptoms typically include the sudden onset of high fever, cough and muscle pain, according to the Health Ministry's website. Other common symptoms include headache, chills, loss of appetite, fatigue and sore throat.
Most people recover from flu within a week or ten days, but some people are at a greater risk of more serious complications or worsening of their underlying condition.
Those at risk from contracting the virus have been urged to get vaccinated.
Where and how can I get vaccinated?
The vaccination is recommended for people over the age of 60, the chronically ill, and pregnant women, as well as health workers.
October and November are considered the best time to get vaccinated – before the flu epidemic really takes off. But it's not too late if you act quickly, as health officials have stressed.
Contact your local doctor if you want to get the flu shot. Influenza vaccination can be performed by any doctor though it's usually carried out at general medical practices.
Flu vaccines are recommended by the Italian health ministry for adults and children with certain health conditions, anyone aged over 65, and pregnant women due to the increased risk of serious complications caused by the virus, the ministry stated.
The flu vaccine is available free of charge in Italy, and you can find out more from your local GP or pediatrician, and on the Italian Health Ministry's dedicated flu website.
Is weather a factor?
Itaians are famously afraid of being “struck by air”. Many believe that having your neck or other delicate areas exposed to draughts will guarantee you're swiftly struck down with flu or pneumonia.
While this isn't strictly true, according to the Italian health ministry, the weather can indirectly influence how flu spreads.
In very cold weather, people spend more time shut indoors and the dry air may make the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract more susceptible to infection.
Meanwhile, droplets coughed up by patients could float around for longer in dry air shut inside rooms during cold weather.
Flu – Influenza
Flu outbreak/epidemic – epidemia di influenza
Seasonal flu – Influenza stagionale
Vaccination – vaccinazione
Chronically ill people – Malati cronici
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