What is influenza?
Influenza or flu is a contagious respiratory illness, that is caused by the influenza virus. There are three different types or strains of influenza virus that affects humans - A, B, and C.
Strains A and B are more hostile than C. They cause the annual endemic with many people suffering from the symptoms of high fever, coughing, headaches, sniffling, and body aches.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms you need to consult your family physician or a general practitioner.
Some subtypes of Influenza A, commonly called Swine flu (H1N1 virus) and Bird flu (H5N1 and H7N9 viruses) have caused serious infections in people, which have also resulted in death.
How is influenza caused?
The flu virus spreads through contact with an infected person, and through coughing and sneezing. When people who are infected, cough or sneeze, droplets are released into the air. People nearby inhale these droplets and get exposed to the virus.
Infection also spreads when unsuspecting people touch any surface, contaminated with the droplets of cough and sneezing of an infected person, and then touch their mouth or nose.
Who is prone to influenza?
Anyone who is exposed to an infected person, faces the risk of getting infected with the influenza virus.
What are the symptoms of influenza? How is influenza diagnosed?
The most common symptoms of influenza include:
- pain in the muscles
- body ache
- throat pain
- high fever
- loss of appetite
- running nose
- chest congestion
To diagnose influenza, the health care provider simply swipes the inside of your nose or mouth with a swab and sends the swab for testing. No blood test is required for diagnosing influenza, though at times, doctors suggest blood tests to rule out any other form of infection apart from influenza.
What are the complications of Influenza?
Complications of influenza can include:
- bacterial pneumonia
- ear infections
- sinus infection
- worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, cancer asthma, diabetes, bronchitis, and kidney, liver or lung disease
Swine flu, a severe strain of influenza can lead to more serious complications apart from the above, such as:
- breathing problems
- lung infection
Bird flu, another severe strain of flu can also result in the following dire complications apart from all the ones mentioned above:
- acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS),
- abdominal cramps
- organ failure
- lung failure
- altered mental status
What is the treatment for influenza?
Though the main treatment for influenza is plenty of rest and drinking plenty of fluids, the doctor may prescribe some antiviral medications for you which will reduce the risk of complications that may arise from the flu.
Questions answered by trusted doctors
Did you know?
Influenza follows certain climatic patterns
The Indian cities get affected by influenza in particular patterns related to the climatic conditions. In Srinagar, Uttaranchal, parts of North-East India the virus goes into circulation during December-April. Cities such as Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata, Dibrugarh, Pune, and Alappuzha experience outbreak of the virus between July-October. Southern cities such as Chennai and Vellore see the outbreak during November - December
Influenza can cause major complications
Influenza can lead to major complications when children below 3 years and adults over the age of 65 years get affected.
Influenza can worsen the condition of ailing people
Influenza can lead to major complications in people suffering from diabetes, cancer, asthma, bronchitis, chronic heart problems, kidney, liver, lung, blood diseases, or weak immune systems.
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