21 Feb What we need to know about the flu
Influenza, commonly called “the flu”, is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract. There are four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D. Human influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of disease almost every winter. The emergence of a new and very different influenza A virus to infect people can cause an influenza pandemic. Influenza type C infections generally cause a mild respiratory illness and are not thought to cause epidemics. Influenza D viruses primarily affect cattle and are not known to infect or cause illness in people. All types can mutate, yielding new strains of the virus every few years. This constant changing enables the virus to evade the immune system so that people are susceptible to the flu throughout life. This process works as follows: a person infected with a flu virus develops antibodies against that virus, as the virus changes, the “older” antibodies no longer recognizes the “newer” virus, and the person gets sick. The older antibodies can, however, provide partial protection against newer viruses.
Compared with most other respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu often causes a more severe illness. Flu symptoms start to develop from one to four days after infection with the virus. Typical flu symptoms tend to come on abruptly and include fever and respiratory symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, as well as a headache, muscle aches, and often extreme fatigue. Although nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can sometimes accompany the flu, especially in children, gastrointestinal symptoms are rare.
Most people who get the flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will recover in less than two weeks. Some people, however, are more likely to get flu complications that can result in hospitalization and sometimes death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. The flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu. While anyone can get flu, there are groups of people who are more likely to get serious flu-related complications if they get sick with influenza: children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and HIV are at highest risk for flu complications.
The flu virus is spread from person to person through respiratory secretions and typically sweeps through large groups of people who spend time in close contacts, such as in daycare facilities, classrooms, college dormitories, military barracks, offices, and nursing homes. Flu is spread when we inhale droplets in the air that contain the flu virus, make direct contact with respiratory secretions through sharing drinks or utensils, or handle items contaminated by an infected person. In the latter case, the flu virus on our skin can infect us when we touch or rub our eyes, nose, or mouth.
Simple steps to avoid influenza: try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth, because germs are spread that way, wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t around.
If we get sick, we can keep other people from getting the flu by staying away from them. Cover our mouth and nose when we cough and sneeze, too. If we don’t have a tissue handy, the inside crook of our elbow is a great place to do it, so we don’t get germs on our hands.
More than 100 types of cold viruses are known, and new strains of flu evolve every few years. Since both diseases are viral, antibiotics cannot conquer cold or flu, because antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be helpful only if there is a secondary bacterial infection.
In general, worrisome signs are very high, persisting fever, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat or shallow, rapid breathing, or significant tiredness or confusion. In very young children, those kinds of symptoms are going to be difficult to assess, and so, a consult with the pediatrician is very important.
The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year!
In Medstar Clinic (Mănaștur, Mărăști) we provide pediatric services (for free or additional), daily.
Our specialist is Mrs. Monica Pintican, pediatric physician.
For more information regarding the medical services we provide, please visit www.medstar.ro
We welcome you to our clinic!