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Influenza Virus: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention Strategies

Influenza-Virus-Symptoms-Treatment-and-Prevention-Strategies

Influenza or Flu

Influenza or flu virus is one of the most common infectious diseases. Influenza is an illness you get from the infection of the Flu virus. It usually causes symptoms like headaches, body aches, congestion of the throat, fever, and respiratory symptoms, which can be severe. Flu is most common in winter, when many people can get sick at once, called an epidemic.

The flu is a respiratory infection that influenza viruses can cause. Most people use the word ‘flu’ when they get a common cold, but the flu and the common cold differ in several ways.

The influenza virus spreads when someone touches a surface such as a doorknob, countertops, or a switch that has been used by an infected person and has the virus on it and then touches their face, nose, mouth, eyes, etc. Influenza is most easily spread in crowded schools and offices.

Causes

Influenza is contagious and can spread quickly from one person to another easily. Viruses that cause Influenza spread from one person to another person mainly by droplets of respiratory fluids that float through the air when someone infected with the virus coughs or sneezes near you. Surrounding people inhale the airborne virus and can become infected.

Types of Influenza

The influenza virus causes flu infection. Influenza A, B, and C . Influenza A and B are seasonal and affect people in winter with severe symptoms. Type C does not cause any severe symptoms and is not seasonal too. The number of cases stays the same throughout the year.

Three types of influenza viruses can infect humans: A, B, and C. While Type C most commonly affects birds like ducks, geese, turkeys, and chickens, it can also affect a small percentage of the human population, especially children. Type B affects mainly humans, and the infection is usually milder in intensity.

Type influenza poses the most severe problems for humans and is responsible for most epidemics and pandemics. Many type A strains have been found in birds, horses, pigs, seals, whales, ferrets, etc. Viruses that can attack or affect two species sometimes combine their genetic information to create a new mutated strain. Because of this mutation, nobody is immune to the outcome, and no vaccine will be available.

Incubation period

The virus takes one to five days to incubate in humans, but the infected people become more contagious even before the symptoms appear even after a day of viral infection. Adults remain infectious for about five to a week, and young children may remain infectious for up to ten days. The infected person is most contagious about three to four days after the appearance of symptoms. People with weak immune systems and infants may be contagious for longer.

Flu season is when cases of the flu go up dramatically. The highest number of subjects usually happens between December and February.

If infected, you’ll usually get flu symptoms one to four days after the exposure incubation period.

Common symptoms are:

The flu lasts 1 to 2 weeks for most people, but it can last up to a month. The most common complications of Influenza are secondary bacterial infections such as sinusitis or pneumonia. The symptoms are usually fever, chills, body aches, cough, and sputum production. In addition, children are easily prone to ear infections like otitis media.

People staying in nursing homes for a more extended period are at a higher risk of complications from the flu as they develop weak immune systems, and most have other medical problems. For example, people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or congestive heart failure are at higher risk of developing bacterial infections like sinusitis and pneumonia. In addition, people with diabetes and pregnant women are at a higher risk of severe complications from the flu.

In such cases, it is essential to recognize the symptoms of flu sickness that require immediate attention. Some of the leading emergency warning signs to watch for:

In Children:

  • Rapid breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin tone
  • Not getting enough fluids
  • Unconsciousness
  • Fever with rashes
  • Flu-like symptoms improving but returning with fever and worsening cough

In Adults:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Pain in the chest and abdomen
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improving then return with fever and worsening cough

How does Influenza spread?

  • The virus spreads through direct or indirect contact with an infected person. Some of the most common modes of spread of the infection are:
  • Getting infected through droplet infection from coughing, sneezing, or talking.
  • Droplets might get onto the hands or spread through the air, get into a person’s nose or mouth, and move into the lungs.
  • By touching a surface contaminated by the flu virus, followed by touching the face, nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Holding the hands or face of someone with the infection and then touching your face, nose, mouth, or eyes.

How are the flu and the standard cold different?

The flu and the common cold may have similar symptomatology, such as runny nose, fever, and cough. But the symptoms of the common cold are usually mild. On the other hand, the symptoms of Influenza can be severe, leading to serious complications. Also, the causative factors are different for colds and flu.

How to differentiate flu or COVID-19?

Getting tested immediately is the only way to know if you are unsure about the infection, as both flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms. Also, if left untreated, they both can lead to the risk of developing a severe illness. The only difference is that different viruses cause them and are also treated in other ways with various medications.

Also Read Covid-19 & Immunity: Increasing Your Immunity with Homeopathy

Risk factors for Influenza

Certain chronic health conditions can be a high-risk factor for severe illness from the flu. Sometimes it may lead to life-threatening complications that require hospitalization.

Some examples of high-risk factors are:

  • Chronic respiratory ailments like asthma, COPD, or any lung disease.
  • A history of kidney, liver, neurological disorder, heart disease, blood vessel disease, and sometimes stroke included.
  • If a person has a disease condition that causes muscle function troubles, especially the airways.
  • Having diabetes and obesity.
  • Having a weak immune system due to infections like cancer, immunocompromised conditions, HIV/AIDS, etc.
  • taking immunosuppressants for a long time.
  • Having any blood disorder such as anemia, or sickle cell disease.
  • Children under five years or adults over 65 years.
  • Women who are pregnant.
  • People who take aspirin regularly.
  • People who are living in a long-term healthcare facility.
  • People or children with breathing and swallowing difficulties.
  • Children who are under chronic therapy take aspirin or ASA.

Management of the symptoms of Influenza

Many people can manage the flu symptoms at home with over-the-counter medications and other measures that may help ease the symptoms. Some of such efforts are:

  • Drinking plenty of liquids such as water, juice, and warm soups to prevent dehydration.
  • Getting plenty of rest. Sleeping sufficiently help your immune system fight infection.
  • Consider analgesics to combat the body aches associated with the condition.
  • Staying isolated and keeping the sick children at home until they fully recover and the fever has been down for 24 hours.
  • Avoid crowds and being around others until you feel better, even with medical care.
  • Wearing a face mask indoors and outdoors may prevent the spread of infection.
  • Washing and sanitizing the hands often regularly.
  • Applying hot packs or hot water bottles can relieve the aching muscles.
  • Taking cough suppressants/antitussives can help calm a nagging cough.
  • Taking antibiotics is ineffective for viral infections, but it can prevent other complications, such as pneumonia or other bacterial infections.
  • Taking antiviral medications to treat the flu can help reduce the duration of the infection and improve the symptoms if taken within two days of the beginning of the symptoms.
  • Taking antivirals to prevent flu in children and adults if they come into close contact with a person who has the flu.
  • Antiviral medications should be started immediately after exposure to the infected person with the flu.
  • Using expectorants to clear mucus out of the airways and lungs.
  • Always consult with a doctor before giving any OTCs, such as aspirin or medicines containing ASA, to children under 16, as it might lead to severe consequences.
  • Following regular handwashing, using soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Practicing coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow.

What is the prognosis of Influenza?

Most people can manage their flu symptoms at home by taking a few precautions and home remedies and recovering within a week. However, because it can cause severe illness, it is essential to monitor your signs and get medical attention if needed. In addition, a person must have an underlying chronic health condition. Once sick with the flu, avoid being around others except to seek medical care.
To avoid spreading the flu to others, avoid returning to work or school for at least 24 hours since you have had a fever without taking any fever medications.

When should I see my doctor?

  • If you think you are infected, getting tested early is essential so that antiviral medications act faster and are more effective immediately after exposure to the virus.
  • Contact your doctor directly if you have flu symptoms and any underlying condition that may be a higher risk for other severe problems.
  • If the symptoms don’t improve even after a week to 10 days. Or if you have a continuous fever for over three days.
  • If you are currently pregnant and have been exposed to flu infection or developing flu symptoms.

Warning signs

Get emergency care or seek immediate medical attention if you have symptoms of severe illness such as:

  • High fever.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Not peeing or peeing very little.
  • Pain in your chest or stomach.
  • Persistent dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Severe muscle pain or weakness.
  • Seizures.
  • Bluish skin, lips, or nails.
  • Fever or cough that gets worse.
  • Worsening of other health conditions.

Complications

While the flu is widespread, it is important to keep in mind that it can lead to severe life-threatening consequences. Vaccination or a flu shot is the best choice to avoid getting sick and protect your loved ones and neighbors.

In addition, the flu virus can cause complications or weaken your immune system, allowing bacteria to infect different body parts. Complications and secondary infections include:

  • Ear infections.
  • Sinus infections.
  • Severe lung infections such as pneumonia.
  • A miscarriage or a neural tube defect in the developing fetus

Diagnosis

Since the symptoms of influenza infection usually vary in intensity from the common cold, a diagnosis can be made relatively faster. Your doctor can diagnose Influenza, mainly with the symptoms themselves. In case of doubt, your doctor can ensure the diagnosis by taking a nasal or throat swab and testing it for the virus.

Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza

Preventing transmission of Influenza and other infectious agents within healthcare settings requires a multi-faceted approach.

  • Flu antibodies are the more efficient tool to prevent the flu. However, the only way to generate antibodies is to get infected with the flu virus or be vaccinated.
  • There is no vaccine for all flu infections, as the flu viruses mutate every time. Hence the vaccination also needs to be invented and repeated every year.
  • Remember that all flu vaccines take two weeks to provide maximum protection against the influenza virus, so getting vaccinated early is essential.
  • The vaccine’s effectiveness varies from season to season, as the virus strain keeps changing every year. However, the symptoms may be milder and easily manageable, even if you are infected with the flu. The influenza vaccine can be given to anyone aged six months and older.
  • The spread of the influenza virus can occur among patients, Health care professionals, and visitors as they may acquire Influenza from persons in their household or community.
  • The core prevention strategies include the administration of the influenza vaccine.
  • Adhering to infection control precautions for all patient-care activities and aerosol-generating procedures.
  • The only best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine yearly. Vaccines target the immune system and make them identify infections and fight them off before a person gets sick.
  • The influenza virus can change slightly every year, so you must get vaccinated yearly.
  • Proper and strict implementation of respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, such as Washing your hands often with soap and water.
  • If there is no soap and water, go for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover the nose and mouth while you are sneezing, coughing, coughing, or sneezing into your elbow sleeve or tissue rather than your hands.
  • Avoid going out and being around other people when they or you are sick with the flu or other infectious diseases.
  • Consider wearing a mask if you must go out while ill and cannot avoid being around other people.
  • Try and avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, and mouth after touching any surfaces. Keep food and eating utensils private.
  • People who should avoid an influenza vaccine are infants under the age of six months and people who are allergic to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine.
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