What is Influenza (Flu)?
Influenza or flu is a viral disease caused by influenza viruses that target the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. The flu can cause minor to major illness, and also be the reason for a person’s death. Even though influenza is commonly called flu, but it is not similar to the flu of stomach that causes digestive disorders such as diarrhoea and vomiting.
For most people, influenza or flu goes away by itself, but sometimes, flu and the complication from it can be deadly. People that are vulnerable to the flu include:
Children under age 5, and especially a toddler.
Adults are more than age 65.
People with the low immune system.
People with chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes.
Overweight people with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher.
CDC says the flu vaccines decrease the chances of getting flu by about 60%, however, the per cent changes each year and among different groups of people. So, taking a vaccine to prevent flu is not 100% effective but still, it is considered the best defence against the flu.
What are the symptoms of Influenza or flu?
At the initial phase, the flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. But, the 2-3 common cold we expect to have each year usually develop slowly where the flu comes suddenly. People caught by flu are likely to have some or all of the following symptoms:
Fever over 100.4 F or 38-degree Celsius / or feeling feverish
Dry and persistent cough
Runny and stuffy nose similar to the common cold.
Aching of muscles and body.
Fatigue (tiredness) and weakness
Children may have vomiting and diarrhoea.
Note: Sometimes, a person will not have a fever even if they are flu-infected.
How the Influenza or flu spreads?
Experts believe that the flu virus spreads through the air droplets when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. People nearby the infected person can inhale the air droplet or pick up the germs from the objects touched by the infected person. It is rare to get flu by touching the object as the stability of flu germs depends on the several factors including relative temperature, humidity and surface type. Disinfecting commonly touched areas such as tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards, handles, desks, toilets, sinks are recommended of the households an infected person. It is also recommended to wash hands often to prevent from virus from touching objects that have flu on it and touching the viruses entrance points such as mouth, nose or possible around the eyes areas.
What are the complications of the flu?
As mentioned earlier, flu goes away on its own but sometimes, some people develop complications that include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and even lead to the worsening of chronic medical conditions like congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
Getting flu vaccination each year is only the way to reduce the chances of being infected. The seasonal flu vaccine protects 3-4 flu virus that is expected to be the most common during that year’s flu season. Mostly the vaccines are available as an injection and as a nasal spray.
Most flu vaccines contain a small amount of egg protein. If a person has a mild egg allergy, they can get hives just consuming eggs. Mild egg allergic person can receive the flu shot vaccine without any additional precautions. However, if a person has a severe egg allergy they should be vaccinated under a medical setting and should be supervised by a doctor who can recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.