Just imagine, It is mid-September. You are standing in a queue at your local mall. A short, stout man standing behind you wipes his nose. He lets out a deep breath, the heat of which you can feel on your neck. It hits you then, standing there in that air-conditioned room. You have noticed far too many watery eyes recently. The flu season has set in.
Influenza is a highly contagious, respiratory illness that affects people from all age groups and geographic backgrounds. In temperate regions, it occurs mostly in the winter months. There is no clear seasonal pattern in tropical climates. It varies in its severity from person to person. Sometimes, it presents as a mild, temporary infection. Other times, it can cause complications like red urine and ultimately lead to death. Influenza causes approximately 375,000 deaths worldwide each year.
This article covers this common but cruel illness in a detailed manner:
The causative agent of Influenza
- Flu Symptoms And Signs
- Cure And Treatment
- Modes Of Transmission
- Preventive Measures
- Living With Influenza
Causative Agent Of Influenza
Influenza is a viral disease meaning that it occurs when a virus invades the cells of the body and expands its population. This naughty microbe is the Influenza virus. According to microbiology, it belongs to the family Orthomyxoviridae. It is
generally classified into three types:
Influenza: A B & C
The Influenza viruses A and B are of prime importance because they cause disease in man. Furthermore, it is of interest to all medical professionals as to how this virus replicates. Firstly, it enters the host cell by binding to an adsorption of the cell membrane. Here, it takes over the metabolic machinery of its host. Then, it utilizes the host cell to make its own proteins and RNAs. The host cell loses its own functions. The viral RNA replicates until it has produced countless copies. Consequently, these copies infect neighboring cells causing widespread infection. Finally, the symptoms appear within two days of initial infection.
Flu Symptoms And Signs
The signs of common Flu infection are listed below:
- Stuffy Nose
- Nasal Congestion
- A sore Throat With Hoarseness/Ache
- A nonproductive Cough
- Shortness Of Breath
- Frequent Sneezing
- Confused And Clouded Thoughts
- Slowing Of General Motor Functions
- Fevers With Abrupt Onset
- Irritating, Reddened Eyes
- Extreme Fatigue
- Ache In The Muscles And Joints
Patients suffering from other chronic illnesses such as lung or heart diseases are at a higher risk of catching viral infections. However, one must see a doctor if the condition is aggravated.
Some red flags are:
- Red Urine
- Cyanosis And Rash
- Chest Pain
- Flu Symptoms That Improve But Then Return With A Higher Fever
- Shortness Of Breath
Children may show additional symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Influenza targets and adversely affect the kids, the elderly and immunocompromised people.
Cure And Treatment
If you have Influenza and you go to your doctor, he will perform a physical exam examining your throat. For patients with extreme symptoms, some doctors may suggest a Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Test which shows results after half an hour. The test looks for possible disease-causing viruses.
The anti-viral drugs usually prescribed for flu are neuraminidase inhibitors and M2 protein inhibitors.
Some of the side effects associated with these medicines are Nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.
There is a detailed vaccination program that includes the trivalent and tetravalent modes of administration to protect against influenza. The attenuated germs in the vaccine activate the body’s immune system. Hence, antibodies are released which kill the foreign pathogens. As it takes two weeks for the vaccines to show their effect, one must be vaccinated two weeks prior to the onset of the flu season. Everyone aged six months and older can get vaccinated. There are negligible side effects of vaccination like a mild headache.
Modes Of Transmission
Influenza is a contagious disease that may occur on a large scale. There are records of influenza epidemics in history. It can spread very easily throughout the population. Therefore, we will discuss the three ways by which it propagates:
Influenza may spread as tiny mucoid droplets in the air propagated by unprotected coughs and sneezes. Viral shedding refers to the circulation of viral components in the atmosphere during the period of infection.
The Airborne Route
An infected person discharges 4000 pathogens in one sneeze. These infectious particles may travel far and wide with the air currents. This phenomenon is commonly visible in crowded places like railway stations and marketplaces. Low humidity and lack of UV light favor the survival of Influenza virus. That is why it is more common during winter.
This is the easiest way for infection to spread. The sneezing, coughing and wiping of the nose by an infected person nearby can cause infection. The virus may enter the throat, nasal cavity or mouth. The hand-to-mouth and hand-to-hand means of spread are frequently observed. The physical objects may also serve as an ideal site for contamination.
Some preventive measure that may save you from joining the Ache Club are
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. (juices, water, and soup)
- Keep updated with your vaccination calendar. It is true that vaccines don’t fight ALL strains of influenza but they do have a positive effect in preventing disease. Surprisingly, it is a useful safeguard for newborn babies and kids.
- Avoid close contact with individuals who already have the infection.
- Wear protective face masks and gloves in public places.
Living With Influenza
Frankly speaking, life after catching influenza can be a real burden. You don’t want to get out of bed, not even to pick up a few rolls of tissue paper. You feel downcast and gloomy. Your breath is hot and your mind is a mess. But don’t worry. These steps will help you get through the day and hopefully, through the entire flu-induced ordeal:
- Stay hydrated by drinking several fluids like juices, shakes, and sodas. Also, try ORS.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
- Keep the pillow on your bed a bit higher than usual.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Use pain relievers that can easily be bought from your local grocery store.
- These include Advil, Motrin IB, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and Pulmonal.
- Don’t give Aspirin to kids or teenagers as it may lead to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but fatal condition.
Influenza is a commonplace occurrence. Although it is curable, it may cause death due to respiratory complications. As a result, we must get vaccinated at the proper time. We should also adopt suitable measures to save ourselves from catching it. Even if we do contract the virus, we should stay calm and follow the doctor’s advice.
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