Influenza is a virus that's talented at mutating to reproduce and survive. The flu has plagued animal and humankind for centuries. The term influenza comes from the Italian word 'influentia' which referred to the astrological bodies that influenced people's lives, sometimes in agonizing ways, like making them sick with the flu. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Spanish Flu spread throughout the world killing millions of people in its wake. Over half of a million Americans perished due to the Spanish Flu pandemic.
Influenza has hundreds of forms. The virus mutates continually, but virologists place all strains within one of three main groups: type A, B, or C influenza. Type A flu is the most common and prevalent type of influenza and is the culprit for the majority of seasonal flu cases. It infects both humans and animals. Type B flu also causes seasonal sickness. It is only found in humans. Type B flu is typically mild compared to type A, but it can be very harmful to more vulnerable people. Type C only affects humans but is much less severe than the other two.
Viruses are tiny organisms that are 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair. Viral activity is responsible for diseases like rabies, herpes, and all types of influenza. A virus is not a living microbe but consists of genetic material like RNA or DNA which is surrounded by either a protein, glycoprotein, or lipid (fat).
Viruses need a host to reproduce because viruses cannot replicate alone; they are categorized as parasitic organisms. Viral infections spread by entering a human, animal or bacterial cell. The virus inserts its genetic material into the host and takes over. After infecting the cell, the virus continues to reproduce - the cell begins making viral proteins instead of healthy cells. The viral protein and genetic materials mix to create more viruses, then escape to start over again, destroying the occupied cells.
Type B influenza shares many of the same symptoms as type A and type C flu. The illness will develop quickly, and symptoms depend on the person's immunity and the type of flu they contract. Many people with type B flu experience a variety of symptoms such as sudden fever with a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, but not everyone with the flu will have a high temperature. Other symptoms include a chesty cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, an aching body, headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Type A is responsible for the worst cases of seasonal flu illness, but type B flu often attacks individuals with weaker immune systems, such as children, older people, and people with chronic medical conditions. Typically, type B flu isn't dangerous to a healthy adult. However, in the last flu season, type B flu was responsible for 110 pediatric fatalities.
The best treatments for type B flu are to keep warm, stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest. Use over-the-counter anti-inflammatories for pain, but be careful when taking flu remedies because they often contain anti-inflammatories, as well. Antibiotics don’t kill flu viruses. In fact, using antibiotics unnecessarily adds to the risk of mutating bacteria, which will become more resistant to the medicines as a result.
Flu is passed on by microbes from coughs and sneezes when droplets spray onto a surface or another person. Coughing or sneezing directly into your hands means your hands now carry viral droplets to surfaces they touch. These microbes can live on unwashed hands for up to 24 hours. One of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of flu is frequently washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
It is possible to help your body fend off the development of type B influenza. Flu shots, which are made from dead viruses and cannot give you the flu, cause an immunological reaction from the body; some people get some mild symptoms such as a low-grade fever or aching muscles for a couple of days after having a flu shot, but serious side effects are very rare. If you do get sick after receiving a flu vaccine, it may be due to a strain of virus already in your system. Viruses are micro-organisms that change to survive which means new strains of influenza every year, so the vaccine is only useful if renewed annually.
image_jungle / Getty Images
No one enjoys getting a needle. Luckily, experts created a vaccine administered as a nasal spray. Unlike the flu shot, the flu vaccine in the form of a nasal spray does contain a weakened version of the flu virus. People with robust and healthy immune systems are able to use the nasal spray without adverse side effects.
guvendemir / Getty Images
Studies show the flu vaccine will help prevent you from getting the most common iteration of the flu. However, the virus regularly mutates so the vaccine isn't 100% effective. The vaccine will strengthen your immune system during cold and flu season and help stop the spread of influenza. Often, people who do get type B flu after receiving a vaccination find it milder and shorter-lived than those affected who were never immunized.
PeopleImages / Getty Images
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.