Influenza, also known as the flu, is a viral infection that is very common. The flu affects the lungs, throat and the nose. An individual struck with the flu will experience symptoms like headaches, runny nose, fever and chills, fatigue, congestion, cough and muscle aches. The flu is a severe illness that affects the immune system of an individual attacked with the virus. Old individuals, children and pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting attacked with the Influenza virus.
There are 4 types of Influenza:
- Influenza A
- Influenza B
- Influenza C
- Influenza D
- Influenza A is a type of disease that is responsible for seasonal infections. This type of Influenza can affect different species that include humans, pigs as well as the bird. Influenza A can also cause Pandemic because of the diversity that the type has. A pandemic can be caused by Influenza A only when a virus that has different strains emerges.
- Influenza B is a type of disease that affects the human body. It causes a mild infection in adult bodies but has a severe effect on the children.
- Influenza C is a type of disease that is similar to Influenza B in terms of it affecting only humans. Influenza C causes a respiratory illness in adults but the effects are mild.
- Influenza D is known for affecting cattle and there have been no known cases of it affecting humans according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Influenza A and Influenza B are the two types of the Flu that is highly contagion us. An infected individual has the capability to spread the virus to another individual within 6 feet of them by merely sneezing or coughing in their direction. An individual can also contract the disease if they touch anything that contains the virus and then touching their mouth or nose without washing their hands with soap. To prevent Influenza A and Influenza B, yearly vaccines are availabl.
The symptoms for the flu are not immediately or initially recognizable as they are similar with that of a common cold or simply a runny nose or a sore throat that can be caused by exposure to the cold. A way to differentiate between a cold and the flu is to check how the symptoms arose. If the symptoms were gradual, then it might be just a cold but if the symptoms affect suddenly, then it most likely is Influenza. The degree of a runny nose and cold are also high in case the individual is affected by the flu. The symptoms of Influenza are as follows:
- The weakness of the body
- Congestion in the nasal passage
- A fever higher than 38 C or 100.4 F
- Muscle aches: arm, leg and back muscles
- Soreness of the throat
- Cough that is persistent and dry
- Causes of Influenza are mostly through contact with the infection. It can be caused by contact with the infection or another individual who has the infection. The flu can enter the body through either the nasal passage or the mouth and then the virus multiplies by using the chemical machinery in the lungs or throat.
- The Influenza virus can be caused even by touching any surface that has the virus on it. Touching common things in public areas like door handles, chairs, tables, railing, lift buttons that have the virus can cause the flu virus to enter the human body.
- Touching your mouth or nose after coming in contact with the virus without washing your hands with hand wash can cause the virus to enter the body through the nasal passage or mouth.
- Being in the range of 6 feet of an Influenza-infected person can cause them to get the virus through the air in case they cough or sneeze, especially in their direction. The infection is airborne can be carried through air droplets.
- The Influenza virus can spread from an infected person even a day before they start showing symptoms and up to 5 to 7 days after they have been infected.
Prevention of Influenza is very simple by taking proper precautions and decisions.
- Avoiding public places during the seasonal flu is a great way to stay away from the virus. The flu can be spread through coming in contact with the virus through touch. Avoid travelling in public transportations if the flue is going around and/or you are highly prone to get infected. Also, if you have the flu, it is better to stay away from others or avoid public places for at least 24 hours so that others are not at the risk of contracting the disease from us.
- Wear a surgical mask when in public areas. If you cannot avoid public places, then the best way to try to avoid getting infected is to cover your nose and mouth when in public or during the season. You might be cautious but others might not be. So, covering your mouth and nose can help you to stay away from the flu in case anyone coughs or sneezes in your way or the air is contaminated by Influenza.
- Contain your sneezes and coughs if you do sneeze or a cough, let alone have the Influenza virus. By practising this habit, you can prevent other people from catching or being prone to catching the Influenza virus. Sneezing or coughing into your hand would not do the job; one should always carry a tissue or a napkin, which can be disposed or washed separately, to sneeze or cough into.
- One of the most common ways to prevent any contagious disease, let alone the flu is to wash your hands regularly, especially if you have been in a crowded space. Wash your hands, before touching your nose, mouth or eyes. If you do not have access to clean water and soap, then use a sanitizer that is alcohol based to clean your hands. Always remember to wash your hands before you eat food or touch anyone else, especially an infant.
- Do not visit or come in close contact through touch or kiss with any person who has been diagnosed with the Influenza infection. If you are to take care of a person with the disease, make sure you take proper precaution and always wear gloves and surgical masks to avoid being in direct contact with the infection.
- Eat healthily and exercise well to build - up your immune system so that your body has a better chance of fighting off such diseases.
If you have come in contact with the Influenza virus or have been showing the symptoms, then you should visit your doctor to get a diagnosis done. The following are the ways to find out if an individual has Influenza:
- Rapid molecular assays Test: A rapid molecular assay is a test done to help diagnose if an individual has been attacked by the Influenza virus. This test works in a way that it detects the virus’s genetic material. The results of the rapid molecular assay test are produced within a matter of 15 to 20 minutes and give out an accurate result.
- Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Test : The Rapid Influenza Diagnostic test is abbreviated as RIDT. This Influenza test works in a way that it detects the antigens that are the parts of the Influenza virus that stimulate an immune response. It takes a shorter period of time for the Rapid Influenza Diagnostic test to produce the results compared to the rapid molecular assay test. It takes only a matter of 10 to 15 minutes. But, there is a great con to this method as the results might not be completely accurate and the test might show negative results for an individual who is affected by the virus.
- Respiratory sample test: The respiratory sample test is carried out by a doctor who takes an individual’s nasal or nasopharyngeal swabs and also nasal aspirate or washes to test for the Influenza virus. This test will work accurately only in case the swabs have been taken within the at the beginning of the illness, preferably within 3 days to 4 days of the start of the Influenza illness.
- Swab test: The swab test involves the doctor taking a swab from an individual’s nose or the back of the throat and then it is tested in a laboratory to check if the swab samples are infected with the Influenza virus.
The treatment of Influenza includes taking proper care of the human body by drinking plenty of fluid, as clichéd as it sounds. Water, low - sugar drinks, as well as soups, should be consumed to reduce the effects of the virus and to build your body better so that it can fight off the Influenza virus.
- Decongestants: The mucus that comes with the sinus has to be broken down so that nasal respiration is not obstructed. You can get your hands on nasal decongestants that help break up the mucus. Nasal decongestants can either be inhaled or taken orally.
- Cough: One of the signs of Influenza is cough and you can get cough suppressants to reduce the effects. Over the counter medicines like lozenges or cough droplets can help with a sore throat or suppress cough.
- Antihistamines: These over the counter medicines are used to treat allergies and cold. It can help with the reduction of the symptoms like a stuffed nose, headaches and watery eyes if an individual suffers from high levels of it.
- Expectorants: Expectorants are over the counter medications that help an individual to cough up any phlegm that they have due to congestion in the nose or chest that is a very common symptom of the Influenza virus.
- An individual with Influenza can be treated with a prescribed medication called Zanamivir that can be inhaled through a device that is similar to an asthma inhaler. This medication is not prescribed to any person with respiratory problems like lung disease or asthma.
- An antiviral medication is also prescribed to treat Influenza. They are known to cause side - effects like vomiting and nausea but the effects can be reduced by taking the medicine with solid food. The antiviral is an oral medication that is named as Oseltamivir but it has been associated with self - harm as well as delirium in teenagers.
- Influenza can cause various complications like dehydration, infections in the ear and sinus. It is also responsible for bacterial or viral pneumonia.
- Influenza can cause any long-term medical conditions like asthma, diabetes or congestive heart failure to worsen.
- The influenza virus can also cause Myositis that is the inflammation of the muscles.
- Influenza is also known for causing Myocarditis that is the inflammation of the organ.
- It can also cause problems with the central nervous system.
- Influenza is also known to cause heart complications like heart attacks.
The Influenza virus causes higher complications in the following individuals:
- Children between the ages of 6 months to 4 years
- Residents of nursing homes
- Individuals with weak immune systems
- Individuals with diseases like HIV/AIDS
- Adults over the age of 65 years
- Any individuals with lung diseases or heart diseases
- Pregnant women
Myth #1: Flu is an advanced form of cold
Influenza causes symptoms like that of a cold but it is a viral infection.
Myth #2: Getting vaccinated every year is not necessary
Getting an Influenza vaccine every year might just be the thing you need. Seasonal outbreaks cannot be controlled by your immunity system.
Myth #3: Getting vaccinated is enough
Mere vaccination is not enough to stop the Influenza virus from attacking your immunity system. You need to take proper precaution like washing hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose in public, etc.
Myth #4: The Influenza virus can be caught by exposure to the cold
The virus is caught by contact with the virus by touching or inhaling the bacteria. It is not caused due to exposure to cold weather. Cold is a symptom of Influenza.
What is the best precaution to take?
Wear a surgical mask in public to avoid inhaling the Influenza virus.
Take proper precautions to avoid getting attacked by the Influenza virus, especially in the flu season. Be sanitized after being in a heavily crowded public place.
Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.