WHAT IS INFLUENZA AND FLU?
Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. Flu is highly contagious and is usually spread by the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. WebMD talks about flu as “Influenza, commonly known as the ‘flu,’ is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring.
The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract.”
There are three types of influenza virii – A, B and C. Influenza A, and B cause most of the cases of flu. Swine flu is caused by a particular strain of influenza A virus which is called H1N1v. It seems to affect children and young adults more commonly than those over the age of 60 years. Most people with this type of flu have a mild flu-like illness. You are more likely to have sickness and/or diarrhea with this type of flu.
Some of the complications caused by influenza may include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Children may get sinus problems and ear infections.
PREVENTION OF FLU
Recommendations could include getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of liquids. And, since flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics cannot help, unless the flu has led to another illness caused by bacteria. Some of the symptoms, such as a headache and body pains may be alleviated by pain killers. However, individuals with flu are advised to avoid contact with other people where possible, keep warm and rest, and, avoid alcohol and stop smoking. But then, health experts and government agencies throughout the world say that the single best way to protect one from catching the flu is to get vaccinated every year.
The single best way to prevent influenza is to get a flu vaccine often. Everyone over 6 months of age is recommended to get a flu vaccine each year. The flu vaccine is available in the form of an injection shot, and in the form of a nasal spray. It is always advised that people should get vaccinated every year. The immunity to influenza viruses decline over time and circulating strains often change as time goes on. You should get your flu shot as soon as it becomes available each year; however, there is a benefit to getting the vaccine later as long as the flu is still circulating. The flu vaccine will protect 7-8 out of 10 people against infection with flu. It takes up to 14 days for full protection to be reached after having the vaccine. This protection lasts for around one year. The flu vaccine has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing a complication from flu, especially in the elderly. The flu vaccine is not suitable for some people.
In addition to getting flu vaccines, extra hygiene precautions are necessary so as to protect oneself and others from influenza. As such, it is good that one observes the following: wash your hands often with warm water and soap, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or with your arm when you sneeze or cough, avoid close contact with anyone who is sick, and, if you do get sick with influenza, try as much as possible to avoid contact with other people for at least one day after the fever is gone.