Flu - An Overview
Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses. It can "knock you off your feet."
The flu differs in several ways from the common cold, a respiratory infection also caused by viruses. For example, people with colds rarely get fevers or headaches or suffer from the extreme exhaustion that flu viruses cause. (see: Symptoms of Cold and Flu: How to Identify Cold or the Flu for more information.)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 10 to 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu during each flu season, which typically lasts from November to March. Children are two to three times more likely than adults to get sick with the flu, and children frequently spread the virus to others.
CDC estimates that in the United States more than 100,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from the flu and its complications every year.
What is Influenza (Flu)?Influenza, commonly called "the flu," is caused by the influenza virus, which infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs). Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu causes severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people.
the Symptoms of Flu?
Influenza is a respiratory illness. If you get infected by the flu virus, you will usually feel symptoms 1 to 4 days later. You can spread the flu to others before your symptoms start and for another 3 to 4 days after your symptoms appear. The symptoms start very quickly and may include
Children can have additional gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, but these symptoms are uncommon in adults.
Typically, the fever begins to decline on the second or third day of the illness. The flu almost never causes symptoms in the stomach and intestines. The illness that some people often call "stomach flu" is not influenza.
Where Do People Usually Get The Flu?
Flu outbreaks usually begin suddenly and occur mainly in the late fall and winter. The disease spreads through communities creating an epidemic. During the epidemic, the number of cases peaks in about 3 weeks and subsides after another 3 or 4 weeks. Half of the population of a community may be affected. Because schools are an excellent place for flu viruses to attack and spread, families with school-age children have more infections than other families.
Is The Flu
An Important Disease?
Flu can cause serious complications. Most people who get the flu get better within a week (although they may have a lingering cough and tire easily for a while longer). For elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses, however, the flu and its complications can be life-threatening.
What Are Possible Complications From The Flu?
You can have flu complications if you get a bacterial infection, which can cause pneumonia in your weakened lungs. Pneumonia also can be caused by the flu virus itself.
Complications usually appear after you start feeling better. After a brief period of improvement, you may suddenly get symptoms.
Some of the complications caused by flu include:
Children may get sinus problems and ear infections as complications from the flu. Those aged 65 years and older and persons of any age with chronic medical conditions are at highest risk for serious complications of flu.
Pneumonia can be a very serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your health care provider immediately so that you can get the appropriate treatment.
Other Flu Complications That Affect Only Children?
Reye's syndrome, a condition that affects the nerves, sometimes develops in children and teenagers who are recovering from the flu. Reye's syndrome begins with nausea and vomiting, but the progressive mental changes (such as confusion or delirium) cause the greatest concern.
The syndrome often begins in young people after they take aspirin to get rid of fever or pain. Although very few children develop Reye's syndrome, you should consult a doctor before giving aspirin or products that contain aspirin to children. Acetaminophen does not seem to be associated with Reye's syndrome.
Other complications of the flu that affect children are
Newborn babies recently out of intensive care units are particularly vulnerable to suffering from flu complications.
Influenza and its complications are the 6th leading cause of death among children 4 years old and younger!
How to Diagnose the flu?It is very difficult to distinguish the flu from other viral or bacterial causes of respiratory illnesses on the basis of symptoms alone. A test can confirm that an illness is influenza if the patient is tested within the first two to three days after symptoms begin. In addition, a doctor’s examination may be needed to determine whether a person has another infection that is a complication of influenza.
How Is The
The flu is spread, or transmitted, when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks and sends flu virus into the air, and other people inhale the virus. The virus enters the nose, throat, or lungs of a person and begins to multiply, causing symptoms of influenza.
Influenza may, less often, be spread when a person touches a surface that has flu viruses on it – a door handle, for instance – and then touches his or her nose or mouth.
You are at greatest risk of getting infected in highly populated areas, such as in crowded living conditions and in schools.
How long is a person with flu virus contagious?The period when an infected person is contagious depends on the age of the person. Adults may be contagious from one day prior to becoming sick and for three to seven days after they first develop symptoms. Some children may be contagious for longer than a week.
Prevention: How Can I Keep From Getting The Flu?
The main way to keep from getting flu is to get a yearly flu vaccine. You must get the vaccine every year because it changes.
Scientists make a different vaccine every year because the strains of flu viruses change from year to year. Nine to 10 months before the flu season begins, they prepare a new vaccine made from inactivated (killed) flu viruses. Because the viruses are killed, they cannot cause infections. The vaccine preparation is based on the strains of the flu viruses that are in circulation at the time. It includes those A and B viruses expected to circulate the following winter.
Sometimes, an unpredicted new strain may appear after the vaccine has been made and distributed to doctors and clinics. Because of this, even if you do get the flu vaccine, you still may get infected. If you do get infected, however, the disease usually is milder because the vaccine still will give you some protection.
Your immune system takes time to respond to the flu vaccine. Therefore, you should get vaccinated 6 to 8 weeks before flu season begins to prevent getting infected or reduce the severity of flu if you do get it. The vaccine itself cannot cause the flu, but you could become exposed to the virus by someone else and get infected soon after you are vaccinated.
See Also: Flu Vaccine Facts and Myths
Are there possible side effects from the flu vaccine?
The most common side effect in children and adults is soreness at the site of the vaccination. Other side effects include fever, tiredness, and sore muscles. These side effects may begin 6 to 12 hours after vaccination and may last for up to 2 days.
The flu vaccine may contain some egg protein, which can cause an allergic reaction in some people who are allergic to eggs.
Who are high risk of contracting Flu? Who should get Vaccination?
If you are in any of the following groups or live in a household with someone who is, CDC recommends that you get the flu vaccine.
Some children are at high risk of having complications from the flu.
Flu could make them very sick or even kill them. The following children need to be vaccinated each year to prevent the flu:
Children 6 months to 18 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
The vaccine can be given to children as young as 6 months. Children and teenagers (aged 6 months to 18 years) should get the flu vaccine if they are taking long-term aspirin treatment as they may be at risk of developing Reye's syndrome following a flu infection (see section on complications in children). They should also get the flu vaccine if they live in a household with someone in the above groups.
Children under 6 months old can also get very sick from the flu. But they are too young to get flu vaccine. The best way to protect them is to make sure that you, their family members, and their caregivers are vaccinated.
Health care workers and volunteers should get the flu vaccine if they work with patients in any of the above groups.
Medicine for Prevention
Although the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent getting the flu, three antiviral medicines also are available by prescription that will help prevent flu infection.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Tamiflu for use in adults and teenagers 13 years and older. Rimantadine and amantadine have been approved for use by adults and children who are 1 year of age and older.
Rimantadine and amantadine have unpleasant side effects. Your doctor can help you decide which medicine is best for you.
You should discuss the flu vaccine and medicines with your doctor before the flu season begins.
See Also: Flu Drugs
How Is Flu
Many people treat their flu infections by simply
Do not give aspirin to children and adolescents who have the flu.
Do not take antibiotics to treat the flu because they do not work on viruses. Antibiotics only work against some infections caused by bacteria.
Medicine for Treatment
If you do get the flu and want to take medicine to treat it, your doctor may prescribe one of four available antiviral medicines.
To work well, you must take these medicines within 48 hours after the flu begins. They reduce the length or time fever and other symptoms last and allow you to return to your daily routine quicker.
See Also: Flu Drugs
Source: The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USA
Holisticonline.com is developed and maintained
by ICBS, Inc.