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Influenza: Confusing People From Years

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   6 min     

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Overview

Influenza is an infectious disease caused by the influenza virus. It is also known as flu, not to get confused by stomach flu which causes vomiting and diarrhoea. 

There are said to be four different types of influenza viruses that affect humans: Type A, Type B, Type C and Type D. Type D has not yet been known to cause infection, but it is believed to have the potential to do so. Usually, the virus spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus is also spread when someone touches a surface contaminated by the virus and then touches their mouth or eyes. A person can be a carrier of infection before and after showing symptoms. 

Signs and Symptoms of Influenza

Almost 33% of people with the infection are asymptomatic.

Symptoms of the infection can start quite suddenly one or two days after exposure. Symptoms include chills and body aches followed by fever, with body temperature ranging from 38 to 39-degree Celcius. Symptoms range from mild to severe, leaving the patient confined to bed in severe cases for several days, with multiple body aches, which are worse in back and legs.

Common symptoms observed in patients suffering from influenza are-

  • Fever and chills

  • Cough

  • Runny nose

  • Back pain 

  • Nasal congestion

  • Sore throat 

  • Dysphonia ( hoarseness, voice disorder) 

  • Earache

  • Throat pain

  • Muscle pain

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Petechial rash

  • Reddened eyes, skin, mouth and throat

  • Irritated nose and eyes.

  • Watering eyes

  • In children, when affected by influenza B symptoms like vomiting and diarrhoea is common.

Symptoms of influenza are a mixture of symptoms of common cold and pneumonia, which makes it difficult to distinguish between common cold and flu. Diarrhoea is not considered as a symptom of influenza in adults but can be a symptom in children. 

The combination of fever and cough together are said to be the best marker as a symptom for influenza, and accurately the body temperature increases more than 38 degrees Celcius, i.e. 100.4  degrees Fahrenheit.

Periodically, influenza can cause severe illness, including primary viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia. The evident symptom includes breathing trouble. If a person is observed to be getting better but relapses with high fever, that is a sign of danger as relapse can be bacterial pneumonia. 

Sometimes, influenza may show abnormal signs like confusion in geriatric and sepsis-like symptoms in the young.   

Influenza also includes some emergency warning signs which should be considered-

  • Chest pain

  • Dizziness 

  • Agitation 

  • Flu symptoms that get better but relapse with a high fever. 

  • High fever with rash

  • Shortness of breath 

  • Extreme vomiting 

  • Inability to drink anything. 

Signs of Dehydration: 

  • In infants: no tears while crying 

  • Far fewer wet diapers than usual  

Risks of Influenza

Most of the times, influenza resolves on its own for most people. But disease and its complications can be deadly, and people who are at high risk of developing flu complications include:

  • Children under the age of 5, and infants, especially under 12 months.

  • Older people, older than the age of 65.

  • People living in nursing homes and other long term care facilities. 

  • Gestational women and two weeks after the childbirth.

  • Immunocompromised people 

  • People with chronic illness such as kidney failure, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and liver diseases.

  • People with body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher.

  • People under the age of 19 and have been receiving the treatment of aspirin for a really long time and at the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome if infected by the influenza virus. 

These are some of the common risk factors of influenza.

Causes of Influenza

The influenza virus travels through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes or talks, without any protection. You can directly inhale the droplets or get exposed by a contaminated object say a telephone or computer keyboard- and then transfer it to your eyes, nose or mouth.

People carrying the infection are believed to spread the infection from the day or so before symptoms first appear for about five days after symptoms begin. Children and immunocompromised people ( i.e people with a weakened immune system) may be contagious for a longer time. 

Influenza viruses are changing constantly, with new strains appearing every other day. If you’ve been exposed to the influenza virus earlier, your body has already produced antibodies against the virus to fight that particular strain of the virus. If in future influenza virus similar to the one you’ve encountered before, either by the disease or getting vaccinated, those antibodies help prevent the infection or lessen its severity. 

But the antibodies produced against a strain of virus cant protect you from new influenza strains. 

How to control the spread of the infection?

The vaccine against influenza isn’t entirely effective, so it is crucial to take measures such as these to reduce the spread of infection as prevention of influenza is essential.

  • Wash hands: Thorough and frequently washing hands is an effective way to prevent many infections. Or the use of hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available is considered to be effective.

  • Hold your coughs and sneezes: cover your mouth and nose every time you sneeze or cough. To avoid contamination of your hands, always carry tissue or handkerchief to cough or sneeze into it. 

  •  Avoid crowds: the flu spreads easily at crowded places- in schools, office buildings, auditoriums, childcare centres and public transportation. By avoiding crowds in peak flu season you reduce your chances of getting infected. And in case your infected stay at home after your symptoms subsides so that you don’t infect others.  

Vaccination for Influenza

The Centre’s for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone of age 6 months and old.

Each year’s seasonal flu vaccine contains protection against three or four influenza viruses that are known to be the most common during that year’s influenza flu season. 

Recently nasal spray vaccine is known to be in trend, though earlier it was not considered to be effective against a certain type of influenza. Although it is the most convenient mode of administration it isn’t recommended in some groups such as children below 2 and 4 years with asthma or cough, pregnant women and immunocompromised people. 

Most vaccines of flu contain an iota of egg protein. Only if you have a mild allergy against egg you can receive the flu shot without any precautions. If you have a severe egg allergy, additional precautions should be taken and should be supervised by a doctor who is able to take precautionary measures against any severe allergic conditions.

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Tags:  Kids health,Kids,well being,flu, influenza

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