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What is influenza and how can we inhibit the spreading of virus?

What is influenza and how can we inhibit the spreading of virus?

Influenza, commonly called "flu," is a contagious respiratory infection caused by' influenza virus.' Fever, chills, muscle pain characterize it, and soreness in the head and abdomen demarks its occurrence. It appears most frequently during winters and early spring. The virus enters the upper and lower respiratory tract, including the nose, throat and lungs. Usually, a person infected with influenza may feel sick for a few weeks and then eventually recover themselves. However, in some cases, the infection may get severe and cause heart failure as well.

Classification of the viruses

Researchers have divided influenza into four main categories; type A, type B, type C and type D. All these types share common symptoms and tend to develop new mutations every year by producing new strains. Due to this reason, one can never develop immunity to the virus unless they get vaccinated each year.

●      Type A viruses

Type A viruses are responsible for the outbreak of major flu epidemics as well as flu pandemics every few years, though they appear rarely. It happens when a new and different type A virus is produced and has the ability to infect as well as spread among people quickly.

●      Type B viruses

Type B virus is less common and causes milder symptoms. They result in local epidemics only, which occur every five years.

●      Type C viruses

Type C causes mild respiratory infection but does not produce common flu symptoms. They are not known to cause any flu epidemics or pandemics.

●      Type D viruses

Type D viruses have not yet affected humans and are only found in cattle and pigs.

Sign and Symptoms

In the beginning, the flu might feel like the common cold, with symptoms such as a runny nose and sore throat, but one's condition may get even worse in flu than it does in the cold. Another difference between cold and flu is that the symptoms in flu appear abruptly, while in the case of cold, they appear rather slowly.

Some general symptoms observed in the body include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sudden fever
  • Chills and sweats
  • Feeling of weakness
  • Eye pain
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms associated with the respiratory tract include

  • Persistent and dry cough
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

Most people recover from the flu within two weeks. The elders, however, may feel weak for a long time, even after the symptoms are gone.

Causes of the influenza virus

As mentioned earlier, the influenza flu is contagious and has the ability to spread among people quite effectively. The virus spreads through the air in the form of tiny droplets. What happens is that when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even talks, they spray tiny droplets in the air, which then enter into the nose and mouth of the people standing nearby, infecting them as well. In another case, one can also touch the surface or some object that has a virus on it and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes even.

The symptoms appear one day after one's been exposed to the virus and continue for 5 to 7 days after getting infected. This explains why one can spread the virus even before they know they are infected. Additionally, children and people with weaker immune systems continue to infect others for a longer period of time.

Risk factors of the influenza virus

●      Age:

The virus usually targets infants of 6 months and older adults of age 65 and above.

●      Weak immune systems:

 People who have had cancer treatments, organ transplants, blood cancer treatments, and HIV/AIDS are at higher risk of developing the infection due to their weaker immune systems. They also have comparatively higher chances of developing complications in the future.

●      Chronic illness:

People with chronic illnesses such as asthma, heart diseases, liver or kidney diseases, diabetes and severe anemia are at higher risk of getting the influenza virus.

●      Use of aspirin in adolescence:

Children who are under 19 and have been taking long-term aspirin therapy may develop Reye's syndrome, a disorder known to cause brain and liver damage.

●      Pregnancy:

Pregnant women are at higher risk of developing complications, especially during the second and third trimesters and even during the first two weeks after the delivery.

●      Obesity:

Obese people with a Body Mass Index of 40 or plus can develop complications of the virus. 

Treatment

Most people with influenza flu tend to recover themselves without using any medication. However, some measures should still be taken, such as resting, increased consumption of fluids, eating light, and using analgesics to control fever. One should also avoid going out to avoid spreading the virus.

However, if you are seriously ill, your doctor might prescribe some antiviral drugs for quick recovery. These include oseltamivir (tamiflu), and zanamivir (relenza). These two falls in the category of neuraminidase inhibitors, which treat both, type A and type B viruses.

Prevention

The best way of preventing the spread of influenza is by getting vaccinated every year. The vaccine is safe for pregnant women and can be given in spray or nasal shot form. In some cases, the vaccine fails to prevent the infection, but it still reduces the severity of the symptoms. One will not get the flu if they have taken the flu shot.

Controlling the spread of the virus

Since the vaccine is not 100% effective, it's crucial to take measures to prevent its spread.

Some common measures are mentioned below:

  • Wash your hands
  • Cover your face while sneezing and coughing
  • Avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose
  • Cleanse your bodily surfaces especially the nasal passage.

Avoid crowds as viruses usually spread through them. By reducing social contact during flu season, one can minimize their chances of being infected.

Takeaway

Influenza is the viral respiratory infection caused by the virus "influenza." Its types include type A, B, C, and D, with type A being the most dangerous. Some common symptoms include chills, headaches and runny nose. The conditions may get worse if one has a weaker immune system and chronic illnesses. The virus is contagious and spreads through air. Therefore, social contact should be avoided for its prevention. The most effective drug for its treatment is neuraminidase, which is proven to treat both type A and type B infections.

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