Flu is a disease commonly mistaken with many others which symptoms are likewise. Only the influenza virus can cause it, please don’t confuse.
As always, the little differences lay the foundation to understand what is truly happening to your body. Please join me in this brief, although an essential explanation of what accurately is the flu.
Let’s start by defining the infection.
Flu is an infection by the influenza viruses. Yes, viruses because there is a wide arrange of them. Concurrently, influenza viruses belong to the Orthomyxoviridae family of viruses.
Most of the cases of flu have two leading causes, type A and B influenza virus. The type C influenza virus is also in constant circulation among humans. But it plays a minor role given they cause less severe disease.
Influenza A virus originates from the birds and swine. After its introduction to humans, the influenza A virus was the prompter of global threads that killed many people, as the “Spanish flu pandemic” in 1918 or the “Swine flu” in 2009. However, after that, this contagious virus is still among us, causing seasonal flu.
Despite the term “seasonal” that identifies the viruses, It would finally depend on which specific virus of the vast family that exists is causing it. In tropical areas, the influenza virus affects the whole year. While in the northern portion of the United States, the season typically starts in early fall and lasts till the late spring of the next year.
How many people can affect?
The estimation of how much this disease can affect the population is overwhelming. According to the World Health Organization, Seasonal influenza viruses infect 5 to 15% of the human population each year, resulting in approximately 500,000 deaths worldwide.
Why can this infection repeat several times?
Naturally, the immune system of healthy people needs to learn how to defend from external microbes, especially viruses. It is the same as for people; the only way of learning is to confront problems, either as a wild microbe, or a fake virus form. This contrived form is known as attenuated viruses because it cannot cause any harm, carries the same structure of a wild one, though.
This mechanism functions through recognition by the immune system of the unique influenza structural features. This recognition allows the body to massively produce special cells that their only function is also to recognize and attack this unique microbe. Not only helps to eliminate the threat, but also when the same danger enters again. The immune system would be even more effective in eliminating that harmful microbe. This whole process in the immunology field has the term of generating “immunity” against a microbe.
Nevertheless, the recurrence of the seasonal flu can happen because influenza can present to the body’s immune system each way as a different microbe. This distinctive way of presentation halts any previous immunity to the microbe by an earlier infection or flu shot. This continuous evolution of the virus, enables it to escape the immune system and caught the body out of guard each time.
So, it is the flu vaccine worthy?
Yes, a lot, the flu vaccine is effectively preventing the spread of the seasonal influenza virus. But that is the thing; the flu vaccine needs regular updates to keep track of changing influenza. So a new flu vaccine is created and used each year, approved by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), with the features of that particular influenza structure.
How can I get the infection?
Well, the flu infects the overall respiratory system, which means that it affects the nose, mouth, throat, and lungs. Therefore, the spread of the disease occurs mainly through the respiratory tract.
When an infected patient coughs, sneezes, talks within 6 feet, or comes in contact with surfaces, it spreads the virus. So, if you are in a close range of people with flu symptoms (such as a cough), or touch the contaminated surfaces and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth. You would likely get the infection. The possible surfaces with the virus include tables, hands, doorknobs, or even a keypad. It is essential to thoroughly clean all the areas where the sick person has been.
Classically, people that spend more time in populated environments are keener to get the disease given an increased exposition to the virus.
Is the coronavirus the same as influenza?
Both of them, coronavirus and influenza, are infectious diseases. Just like the pandemic by the COVID-19, influenza by the Spanish flu caused 50,000,000 deaths in the 20th century. The two viruses affect the respiratory tract and can cause death in a vulnerable population. The difference, for now, is that the flu throughout the years had the chance to be exhaustively studied, and prevention by a flu shot is possible!
Maybe due to the coronavirus pandemic, you should take a look at: COVID-19
How long the flu is contagious?
After the first 3 to 4 days, when the symptoms begin, the patients are in the most contagious phase. However, sufficient capacity to infect can exist up to the fifth or seventh-day of flu symptoms starting. Also, people with no symptoms can infect others, even though it is much less than when they’re experiencing flu symptoms.
Which persons are more in danger if infected?
There is a group of patients that, if get the infection, are in grave danger of developing more acute flu symptoms.
This high-risk group would include the young children, susceptible older adults (over 65 years), pregnant woman, people working in very crowded places, patients with a compromised immune system (f. e. patients taking steroids or chronic HIV positive patients without medication), obese people, any other patient with chronic conditions as diabetes.
How can I prevent the flu?
Many ways of preventing flu infection are available and are very easy to perform. Firstly, avoid crowds and mass gatherings—frequent handwashing with soap, and exhaustively drying hands. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Then, many other measures would help to boost your immune system against the virus such as restful sleep, physical activity, eating nutritional food, decrease stress, and taking time to self.
It is important to note that social distancing from the people you care about during the time of symptoms would decrease the chances of infecting them.
What are the flu symptoms?
Flu symptoms fill up an extensive list including chills, dry cough, excessive sweating, fatigue, fever lasting 3 to 4 days, headache, pain in the extremities, runny and stuffy nose, body aches, sore throat, sneezing, and weakness. Not all of them are present all the time. However, many of them virtually always show up, such as dry cough and fatigue.
The expression of these symptoms is more severe than what occurs in the common cold for which is heavily mistaken. The patients with flu are genuinely in distress by their symptoms. These patients are usually the ones that assist a clinician consult.
Is flu A or B worse?
The respiratory illness by influenza A virus has way more capabilities to spread and cause more severe disease. On the contrary, type B influenza is a less contagious respiratory illness, but on occasions can lead to flu-related complications.
Can you die from the flu?
Yes, the flu causes approximately half a million deaths yearly worldwide. If the flu symptoms don’t resolve within fourteen days, some complications may arise. These complications can vary from moderate to strenuous and life-threatening situations.
Moderate complications include respiratory illness as bronchitis, sinusitis, and infections of the ear. Severe complications can be dehydration, widespread body inflammation, multiple organ failure, severe pneumonia, and sepsis.
The particular population that is keener to develop these complications are pregnant women, obese people that are taking aspirin treatment, children below two years, and adults older than 65 years.
What is the treatment?
The classical manifestations of flu symptoms have relief treatment. The medication mainly is acetaminophen plus others, specifically for the sore throat symptom, which tends to be the most bothersome one.
No antibiotic could have any action towards the influenza virus. Therefore, the utilization of it only would aid in destroying your good bacteria that populate the “bacterial flora” that is essential for the normal functioning of the body. Despite this, yes, it exists drugs that act specifically against the influenza virus, are called “antiviral drugs” it is only a second-line treatment, though. Therefore, antiviral therapy utilization is in severely ill patients.
The flu shot remains the most powerful tool the medical filed has to fight the flu. Therefore following all the vaccine recommendations by the CDC is a must.
Do I have it?
You don’t have to worry. This tool is a flu symptoms checker, which will aid you in determining if the symptoms that you have are likely to be the flu. Despite this, not being a definite diagnostic is free and would only take a few minutes!