Public Health Agency

Influenza Guidance for Care Homes

Influenza is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract. There are three types of

Influenza virus: A, B and C. Influenza A and influenza B are responsible for most clinical illness. Influenza is highly infectious with a usual incubation period of one to three days.

The disease is characterised by the sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, myalgia and extreme fatigue. Other common symptoms include a dry cough, sore throat and stuffy nose.

Transmission is by droplets, aerosol, or through direct contact with respiratory secretions of someone with the infection.

Vaccines are available against both influenza and pneumococcal disease and these can be used to prevent or reduce the likelihood of outbreaks of these diseases and their complications. Vaccination is of limited use as a control measure during an acute outbreak of influenza. It takes about a week to 10 days for the body to make antibodies to the influenza virus included in the vaccine. Antibodies are proteins that recognise and fight off germs that have invaded the blood, such as viruses. Antibodies help protect against any similar viruses which people then come into contact with. The influenza virus changes every year, so influenza immunisation is required annually to ensure protection against the latest strain of the virus.

It is important that all care homes are provided with the relevant information that will help them to manage flu and potential flu outbreaks. It is also important that all staff receive appropriate Infection Prevention & Control / Flu training.

For guidance on managing outbreaks of acute respiratory illness please click here.

A poster for guidance on outbreaks of flu in care homes, which can be displayed at the entrance to a Care Home facility, can be accessed here.