Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 14th March 2023.

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Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Tatton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what definition is given by his Department to the term flu and whether it relates to specific pathogens.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

‘Flu’ is short for ‘influenza’. Influenza is an acute viral infectious disease of the respiratory tract caused by influenza viruses. There are three types of influenza virus, A, B and C. Influenza A and influenza B are responsible for most clinical illness. The disease is characterised by the sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue. Other common symptoms include a dry cough, sore throat and stuffy nose.

Influenza viruses are significant human respiratory pathogens that cause both seasonal, endemic infections and periodic, unpredictable pandemics. While there are many pathogens that cause acute respiratory infections, the term ‘flu’ is specific to influenza. Similarly, ‘influenza-like illness’ is medical or public health surveillance terminology for an acute respiratory infection that has signs or symptoms characteristic of influenza, rather than being used more loosely to describe acute respiratory infections in general.

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