Flu is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (airways), often called influenza. Flu is an extremely infectious viral disease that will happen in outbreaks during the winter. Flu primarily changes the upper airways and can be transmitted readily in airborne droplets from the coughs and sneezes of infected individuals. On the other hand, the flu virus is generally transmitted from person to person through direct contact.
Many distinct viral infections can lead to moderate flu-like symptoms, but true influenza is due to two main kinds of influenza virus, A and B. The type A virus, in particular, often alters its construction (mutates) and creates new forms to which few people have resistance.
The amount of flu cases fluctuates from year to year, but especially virulent forms have spread globally and caused millions of deaths. Such important outbreaks, called pandemics, happened in 1918 with Spanish flu, in 1957 with Asian flu, in 1968 with Hong Kong flu and in 1977 with Russian influenza.
Causes of Flu
Flu, or influenza to be precise, is an infectious illness caused by a number of viruses. Every two or three years a new strain of flu virus emerges from the Far East, works its way across Asia and eventually arrives in Europe. There are always large numbers of otherwise healthy people who catch the illness simply by chance, especially those working or living in institutions, old age homes or offices, where the virus can spread easily. Vulnerable people, for example the elderly and people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, chronic bronchitis and diabetes, do not catch the virus more easily but are much more prone to develop serious consequences from the infection such as pneumonia.
Unfortunately, resistance to any one strain of the flu virus is only short-lived; in addition, the virus changes from year to year which is why flu is an annual problem. About once every decade the virus becomes particularly aggressive for some reason and causes a serious epidemic.
Symptoms of Flu
The symptoms of flu grow 24-48 hours after illness. Many folks believe they’ve flu when they’ve just a common cold, but the symptoms of flu are way more serious than those of a cold, and grow much quicker. The first symptom may be small chills. Other symptoms, which develop after and worsen quickly in just a couple of hours, may contain the following:
- high temperature, sweating and shivering
- aching muscles, particularly in the back
- intense exhaustion
- regular sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, and cough.
Following an attack of influenza, tiredness and depression are frequently experienced after other symptoms have vanished.
The most common complications are bacterial diseases of the airways (bronchitis) and lungs (pneumonia). Such diseases can be life threatening in infants, elderly individuals, people that have long-term heart or lung disorder, and people who have reduced immunity, like people that have AIDS or diabetes mellitus.
What Might Be Done?
- For most generally healthy individuals, the greatest method to alleviate the symptoms of flu will be to rest in bed, drink plenty of cool fluids and follow the guidance for bringing down a fever.
- Painkillers, including paracetamol, and other over the counter treatments may help relieve aching muscles and other symptoms.
- If self-help measures are unsuccessful, you may be prescribed antiviral drugs, like amantadine or rimantadine, which are effective against flu viruses supplied they are given within 24 hours of the start of symptoms.
- You should see your doctor promptly if you’ve got trouble breathing or if your fever lasts for longer than two days. Maybe you are given a chest X-ray to eliminate a chest illness including pneumonia.
- If a bacterial disease is discovered, your physician will prescribe antibiotics. Nonetheless, these drugs don’t have any effect on the flu virus itself.
Treatment for Flu
Because flu is a viral illness there is no specific treatment that will cure the infection. Instead, doctors concentrate on treating any complications that arise. These are most commonly chest infections, which would be treated with antibiotics. Otherwise, the patient should stay warm and drink lots of fluids. Fever should be treated with aspirin (but not for children under 12 years old – see Colds) or paracetamol. This also relieves the muscular aches and pains. In some cases hospital treatment may be needed, for example if the patient is becoming dehydrated or has a serious chest complication. Flu vaccination is a good idea if you fall into one of the higher risk groups such as diabetics. The single vaccination is given in late autumn, in time to allow a build-up of immunity before the peak flu season, which is late December/January in the northern hemisphere. Vaccination is now offered to everyone over 65 because flu hits the elderly hardest and carries a risk of death in severe cases. Flu vaccination should also be considered by people working in institutions for the elderly and sick, where flu may spread very rapidly.
What Is The Prognosis?
- If there aren’t any complications, most of the symptoms of flu typically vanish af ter 6-7 days, although a cough may last over fourteen days.
- Tiredness and depression may continue even more.
- Nevertheless, for anyone who’s in one of many high risk groups, the complications of flu may be life threatening and in outbreaks, deaths from related pneumonia are quite common.
- Immunization is powerful protection. It’s specially recommended for individuals in high risk groups (excluding infants) and individuals who are especially likely to be exposed to the virus, like health workers or carers or aged individuals.
Immunization prevents diseases in about two thirds of people that are vaccinated yearly. On the other hand, the vaccine cannot be fully successful because the viruses often mutate, and distinct forms are responsible for outbreaks every year. The World Health Organization urges the kinds of vaccines issued each fall, determined by which forms are anticipated to be most common in a specific area. But if a virus mutates well, protection from the vaccine will be minimal and outbreaks may happen.
Commonly asked Questions
Why do I get flu several times a year?
You are probably getting a Jln-like illness, with fever, aches and pains, .lay viral illness causes these symptoms in the early stages. Many people call the common cold flu, which drives doctors to distraction. People are surprised at how much mare severe true jin is.
Is flu vaccination harmful?
I ‘here is no serious risk associated with this vaccine. As it is made from egg protein anyone allergic to eggs must not have it. Also, as with any vaccine, it should not be given if you are already ill with another infection.
Is any other treatment helpful?
A drug called amantadine, originally used for Parkinson’s disease, reduces the severity of flu. It is an under-used treatment. Vaccination against the bacterium pneumococcus gives long-term resistance to infection from this germ, which causes many of the complications of flu. Antiviral drugs that relieve Jin are still controversial, but are likely to be available soon.
Western herbalism ginger and cinnamon tea will provide warmth: infusions of elderflower, yarrow and peppermint will help regulate temperature.
The following aromatherapy oils are helpful: eucalyptus, cajeput, tea tree, sage, thyme. Use them as chest rubs (three drops to 10 ml of carrier oil), inhalations (two to lour drops in a bowl of hot water or on a warm handkerchief) or in the bath (six drops). Nutritional therapy – see Colds. Other therapies to try: most have something to offer.
Nutritional therapy – see Colds. Other therapies to try: most have something to offer.