Overview | Types | Causes | Symptoms | Risks factors | Complications | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention | Remedies
What is influenza?
Influenza is a viral infectious disease caused by influenza (RNA virus of orthomyxoviridae family) virus. Its generic name is – ‘flu’. It broadly attacks your respiratory system, that is, your nose, throat, and lungs. By its name ‘flu’, don’t take it as the general stomach flu. Influenza is more than just flu. It is highly contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets. Talking or any kind of physical contact with an influenza-infected person can pass you the influenza virus. It can affect not only humans but animals and birds too. There are some types of influenza virus too, such as influenza A, B and C, and some strains like ‘bird flu’ etc. Are also present. Although influenza is highly transferable you can easily be fit and fine within 3 weeks if treated nicely. The mortality rate of influenza virus-infected individuals is 0.1%.
Fact: There are about 10 million cases of influenza virus found per year, in India.
Types of Influenza virus:
Till now, there are three types of influenza viruses are known which can infect humans. Other than this, there are many strains of the influenza virus that can infect birds, animals, etc. The three common types are —
- Influenza A – It is the most common, deadliest and contagious type of influenza virus. Among all those who lost their life due to the Influenza virus, most are infected by this type of virus.
- Influenza B – This is the second common type. Its symptoms are quite similar to the symptoms of influenza type A. A person needs about 2 -3 weeks to recover from both type A and B.
- Influenza C – This type is not considered as dangerous and has mild symptoms only. It may be get cured itself or with treatment within few days only. One generally doesn’t need treatment, if infected with this type of influenza virus.
Causes Of influenza: When an influenza-infected person cough or sneezes, them the influenza virus gets release with the droplets in the air. You can get infected by the influenza virus by inhaling the droplets containing the influenza virus or by any physical contact with the infected person or object.
Once you get cured, your body will develop antibodies against that type of Influenza virus. If you come in contact with that type of virus again, then the antibodies will fight the virus and protect you. But, these antibodies can not protect you from the other types of influenza virus. And the level of antibodies will decrease over time. Your immune system should be strong enough to fight with and destroy this virus within the body.
Symptoms of Influenza:
Its initial symptoms are quite similar to the common cold. But, the symptoms will approach you abruptly if you are infected with influenza, whereas in common cold cases, symptoms are generally progressive. In influenza, you may feel much worse than the common cold, with symptoms such as –
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- High-temperature fever lasts for 3 – 4 days
- Muscle pain
- Cold Sweats and shivers
- Severe body ache
- Difficulty in breathing
- Dry and persist cough
- Stuffy nose
- Eye pain
- Low appetite
- Diarrhoea (mostly in children)
Some people may not have a fever but is infected. And some may not have all of these symptoms but some. These symptoms approach the person abruptly.
Symptoms if you have, then go to your doctor immediately:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Stomach pain or pressure
- Breathing difficulties
- Severe fever or cough, that appears for some time then disappear; and again approaches after some time.
- Severe pain
- No urination
- Worsening of the underlying health conditions
Children can suffer gastrointestinal problems like vomiting, diarrhoea etc. Along with the above-mentioned symptoms.
In infants, influenza can be more dangerous. As along with these symptoms, babies have blue or grey skin colour, shows no interaction, fever, prolonged vomiting, dehydration, don’t want to holed by anyone, breath heavily etc. Go to your doctor immediately if these symptoms are visible.
- Age – If your age is 65 years or older, or the infant is 6 months to 5 years old, then you and the infant have a high risk of getting infected with influenza.
- Weak immune system
- Chronic illness
- People who are working or living in such situations, where they come in contact with many peoples are more likely to get infected.
Complications: Although young individuals may not need to worry much about this disease. But, children and old individual should be aware as they are at a high risk of developing this disease, including these complications —
- Heart problems
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Ear infections
Pneumonia is the deadliest among these.
Your diagnosis will start with a physical examination, followed by an analysis of symptoms. If you have any symptoms then your doctor will order a test to detect the presence of the influenza virus. The most common test to detect the presence of the virus is Polymerase chain reaction (PCR). As PCR test is more sensitive than others, therefore, through PCR test one can easily identify the presence of any strain of viruses.
Treatment of influenza:
If you have a mild infection, then it can be treated at home, by just getting enough rest and drink plenty of water. Increase your fluid intake as much as you can, because, in this disease, dehydration can occur and invites many other issues.
But if your condition and symptoms are serious, then your doctor can prescribe you some antiviral drug medications to treat your flu. These antivirals can be –
These drugs will help you to get tired within 2 or 3 days and also prevent any type of serious complications.
Although, before taking these medications, you should know that antiviral drugs can show some side effects too, such as vomiting, diarrhoea etc. Among these antiviral drugs, Zanamivir (nasal spray kind of antiviral drug) should not be used by asthma and long disease patients.
Prevention Tips and Home Remedies:
- Hand wash – Washing hands is an effective way to prevent not only influenza but many other kinds of viruses too. You must be aware that one should wash his/her hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water or hand wash. One can use a hand sanitiser in absence of water and soap.
- Cover your face and nose – While going out, you can cover your face, especially your nose and mouth to avoid touching them, like the virus, which can easily get into your body through the nose and mouth.
- Use tissues: Always remember to use tissue or handkerchief while sneezing or coughing. This will avoid the droplets around you get infected or you could be safer.
- Always maintain good hygiene around you
- Avoid crowd gatherings
- Increase your fluid intake.
- Don’t compromise with your sleep hours, take enough rest
- If you get infected with any disease or virus, make sure to stay at home until cured.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol
- Eat healthy foods
- Maintain immunity
One should get an influenza vaccine once a year. Especially those who are suffering severe symptoms must get vaccinated. Although influenza vaccines are not 100 % effective they can be the most powerful weapon against this spreadable disease.