One of the most adverse types of the flu virus is known as influenza. Spread through viral infections in the lungs, this infection can be deadly when it attacks children aged 5 years or below. Pregnant women and senior citizens aged 65 years and above are also prone to Influenza. Generally, influenza attacks people with health immune weaknesses.
Influenza is a life threatening respiratory disease. It’s spread through the flu virus but has worse symptoms when compare to the normal flu infection. Influenza is one of leading causes of death in countries that experience extreme cold temperatures. Influenza is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person, inhalation of an aerosol that contains the virus or by touching contaminated objects.
There are three families of influenza, Influenza virus A, B and C. Influenza A attacks birds and some types of mammals. When influenza attacks poultry, it can also lead to a breakout of the human pandemics of the flu virus. Influenza that originates from birds and animals is often very acute, leading to mass deaths. Influenza virus B attacks seals and human beings. It’s less common because the hosts are few. Influenza C, on the other hand, is as common as Influenza A. The two common Influenza C hosts are humans and pigs. However, the virus is associated with mild symptoms and can be treated.
Influenza is spreads fast during certain seasons of the year. The cold half of the year, spring and winter, represents the major seasons when influenza outbreak occur the most. Although it differs from location to location, it takes about three weeks before influenza outbreak begin to increase. In some cold regions, influenza outbreaks can happen within the first week of a cold season. Influenza also tends to diminish toward the end of a cold season.
Although the reason why influenza increases during the spring and winter are not clear, here are possible explanations:
- During the winter, most people stay indoors. This increases contact with infected people, thereby, spreading influenza.
- Influenza virus type C often spreads when it’s cold and dusty, mostly during the spring.
- During the cold seasons, air is dry. This hydrates the mucous membranes and can lead to the body becoming unable to fight the flu.
- Unlike the summer, the flu virus lingers on surfaces for longer during the cold seasons. The flu virus stays on the door knob longer during spring than it would during the summer. This occurrence is known as slow decomposition.
In the US, the flu season starts in October and ends in May. Influenza pandemics are particularly prone in February but slow down toward the end of April. The influenza seasons in some countries are not clearly defined, however. In the tropics, for example, the flu virus can occur any month when the temperatures get cold and dry because tropical countries do not experience the normal seasons. In the subtropics, like Hong Kong, the influenza virus starts in December.
Influenza Symptoms and Treatment
Initial Influenza symptoms resemble those of the flu. Patients experience a runny nose, sore throat, mild fevers and occasional sneezing. These symptoms linger for a while, and continue to worsen with time. The distinguishing symptoms of influenza are headaches, a sore throat, persistent coughs, fever, sweats and chills and aching muscles.
Apart from the season of the year, there are several risk factors associated with influenza. Below are some of them:
- Weak Immune system. People suffering with cancer, HIV/Aids and diabetes are at higher risks of getting infected by influenza. If you have a weakened immune system because of any reasons, you should consult a doctor as soon as you experience influenza related symptoms.
- Age. Children aged 5 years and below and senior citizens above 65 years of age are more prone to acquiring influenza. This is because they have weaker immune systems.
- Pregnancy. Pregnant women are more vulnerable to influenza compared to non-pregnant women. Influenza can be particularly dangerous when it attacks during the second and third tri-semesters.
- High risk infections-Influenza can cause adverse health effects to persons with asthma; bronchitis, ear infections, pneumonia and heart problems.
Influenza can be prevented in many occasions. Since it’s contracted by coming into contact with an infected person, avoiding crowds and washing hands with sanitizers regularly can help you avoid the virus. Treatments for influenza come in the form of antiviral medication and pain relievers. To decongest your nasal cavity, doctors may recommend a decongestant that you inhale. You may also take tablets, liquid medicine or get an injection. Consuming plenty of fluids and taking some rest can also help you manage the infection.
What is an Influenza Vaccine?
Popularly known as flu jabs, influenza vaccines prevent influenza viruses. Flu vaccines are developed twice in a year because influenza viruses mutate rapidly. Influenza vaccines are often very effective in preventing the infection. Areas where people take influenza jabs experience lower cases of influenza pandemics and deaths.
The World Health organization and other major health bodies recommend that everyone get a flu jab once in a year. High risks groups like pregnant women, senior citizens and people with chronic diseases are advised to take a vaccine twice in a year. Note that sometimes a vaccine can cause slight fevers among children but there are no serious side effects.