Along with Covid-19, another virus is also starting to go around- influenza, or the flu. Since it is flu season, here is some helpful information about the virus and how to prevent it!
Influenza and its Causes:
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a contagious viral infection that targets the respiratory system. It can be mild through severe, and can lead to death in some cases. It is caused by influenza viruses, and there are 4 types of them- Influenza A, B, C, and D viruses. Influenza A and B viruses usually cause seasonal epidemics of the flu, the Influenza C virus is pretty rare and seems to only give mild infections, and the Influenza D virus is only known to affect cattle. The flu spreads mainly from person to person; from the little droplets that are made when someone who has it sneezes or coughs, or maybe even just talks. Those droplets land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. Sometimes, the flu spreads when someone touches an object or surface contaminated with the influenza virus, then goes to touch a part of their face like their mouth, nose, or eyes.
The flu is pretty common. According to the World Health Organization, there are about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness and 250,000 to 500,000 deaths every year from the flu. And a different study showed that about 8% of the U.S. population gets sick from the flu each season. It is found all over the world, and most common in the east, especially in Southeast Asia. There is proof that each year, influenza could be spreading from the west to the east; every year, the flu eventually dies out everywhere except the west.
Having the Influenza/Flu:
Symptoms of the flu are: fever, aches (like body aches and headaches), chills, tiredness or fatigue, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and vomiting and diarrhea
Some people get all or some of these symptoms (for example, not everybody gets fever due to the flu), and vomiting and diarrhea are more likely for children than adults.
The flu can be fatal sometimes, but not always. The people who are most at risk because of the flu are very young children/babies, pregnant women, people 65 or older, and people who have chronic health problems.
If you are wondering how long the flu lasts, the flu cough can be pretty bad and last for even more than 2 weeks, but people can usually recover from the other symptoms in a week without medical attention. The flu completely goes away in about 2 weeks for most people. You can also get the flu over and over again, because there are different strains of it.
How to Prevent Getting the Influenza/Flu or Spreading it to Others:
The main, most important way to prevent yourself and others from getting the flu is to get the influenza vaccine every year. It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) that everyone who is 6 months or older gets vaccinated. Especially in times like these, with Covid-19 still around, the healthcare system is already struggling, so it is essential that we all get the flu vaccine. It would be best to get vaccinated before flu season, preferably in early fall, but it is still very good to get it during flu season, too.
Some other things you can do: Avoid close contact with those who have the flu. Stay home from work, school, and other things if you are sick so that you don’t spread what you have. Cover your mouth or nose with your arm or a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often to get rid of germs that cause the flu and other illnesses. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose, since one of the ways the flu spreads is when you touch something then touch your face. Practice other healthy habits, like cleaning surfaces that could possibly be contaminated, exercising, drinking a lot of fluids, and eating healthy foods (these will help in both preventing getting the flu and preventing spreading it).
Most people can recover from the flu with just getting enough rest and drinking plenty of fluids. People can also take over the counter pain relievers, just for some of the symptoms (not really a cure for influenza).
There are also antiviral drugs and medications for people who get the flu, which work best when taken somewhere before 48 hours after getting sick, but they are still good when taken later than that. With the antiviral drugs, people’s symptoms can reduce, the length of how long they are sick could be shortened by one or two days, and serious complications like pneumonia can be prevented. Antiviral medications can have side effects like nausea or vomiting, but the side effects can be lessened if someone takes the drug with food.
The Flu’s Fascinating History:
The flu has possibly been around for at least 1,500 years. One of the earliest reports of an influenza-like illness comes from Hippocrates (5th century BC), who talked about a very contagious disease from northern Greece. There was a flu epidemic in Florence, Italy, and they called it influenza di freddo, which means “cold influence,” which was what they thought caused the flu, since influenza viruses weren’t discovered until 1892. There were many more different flu epidemics in history. Some of the flu strains we have now are likely to be descended from the 1918 Spanish flu, which resulted in a pandemic with a death toll of millions, but not as bad. Because of a poultry outbreak in China in 1977, China, Europe and Africa were badly affected by the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N1) virus, and many people died. In 2009, there was a pandemic of a new strain of the A(H5N1) virus that started in North America that killed over 200,000 people. It was really bad because younger people didn’t have the antibodies to fight the virus, unlike older people who had been exposed to the other strain already. Basically, the flu is very dangerous, has a long history of affecting humans, and we should do what we need to to keep ourselves safe.
– The flu is contagious even before symptoms start, and you can get symptoms very suddenly.
– The influenza vaccine only works after up to 2 weeks.
– The flu can create complications that can be life threatening, and you can still get the flu shot if you are sick and have a fever of 100.4 degrees F or less.
-The word influenza is Italian for “influence.”