The word influenza comes from the Italian word 'influentia.' Centuries ago, people believed unfavorable astrological influences caused the flu. Influenza is passed on by microbes from coughs and sneezes. When somebody expectorates, droplets spray onto a nearby surface, or onto other people. Coughing or sneezing directly into your hands means your hands then carry droplets to the surfaces they touch. Type A Influenza spreads quickly. It is capable of mutating, infecting, devastating a diverse population of species.
In the past, the flu has ravaged entire continents. At the turn of the twentieth century, a variation of the bird flu (H1N1) virus caused Spanish Influenza to spread across the globe, killing an estimated 20 to 50 million people. Influenza, also known as ‘the flu,’ is a contagious disease caused by an influenza virus. There are several types of flu. Type A influenza is the most adaptive and dangerous strain of the disease.
A virus is a microscopic organism that may cause mild to severe illness in humans. Virus organisms are 100 times smaller than a single bacteria cell, which is itself 100 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. A virus is not a living organism; it multiplies by entering a human, animal, or bacterial cell; it takes control of the cell by inserting genetic material into the cellular cavity. The occupied cell produces virus particles instead of healthy cell components. These particles combine to create more viruses, which escape the cells and repeat the process.
Influenza has hundreds of strains. The virus mutates frequently, but virologists have divided it into three main categories: A, B, and C. Type A influenza is responsible for the majority of seasonal flu cases in humans and animals. Type B is another kind of flu that causes seasonal illness. It found only in humans. It is rarer and typically less severe than influenza A. Type C only affects humans but is much less severe than type A or B. Statistics suggest the flu is responsible for 200,000 hospital visits each year in the United States.
Type A Flu requires a scientific definition. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Influenza A viruses are divided into subtypes by two proteins on the surface of the virus: hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA)." There are 18 identified HA subtypes of the flu virus and 11 NA subtypes. The virus mixes these subtypes and proteins for easy and efficient mutations. The flexibility of the viral structure is what makes this type particularly dangerous for humans and other mammals. Type B and Type C flu are less capable of mutating.
Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include sudden fever -- a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Other symptoms include aches, fatigue, dry, chesty cough, sore throat, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and nausea. Dehydration occurs quickly when you have the stomach flu, so it is vital to consume enough clear liquids to stay hydrated. This helps your immune system defeat the virus.
The best remedies for the flu are merely keeping warm and plenty of rest and sleep. Also, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories will help reduce high body temperatures and deal with aches and pains. Drink plenty of water. Be wary of stacking standard flu remedies and dedicated anti-inflammatories -- many times the flu remedy will also contain painkillers. Antibiotics are highly-effective drugs when used appropriately to treat susceptible bacterial infections, but a virus causes the flu, so this type of medication is not useful for this illness.
Prescription drugs can help cut recovery time by one or two days for specific strains of type A influenza. These medications work better when taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms and can be taken to help prevent the flu after exposure to the flu virus, though they are not a replacement for a flu vaccine.
The flu is very contagious and quickly spreads to others. The virus is likely to be infectious during the first five days. Microbes live on unwashed hands for 24 hours. They survive up to 48 hours on hard, nonporous surfaces such as stainless steel and up to 12 hours on cloth and tissues. Make sure to wash your hands often with warm water and soap. Use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze, and then dispose of the tissues quickly and wash your hands. An annual flu shot will reduce the likelihood of catching the virus.
Usually, the flu does not necessitate a visit to the doctor, but if your symptoms are severe, they aren’t getting better after a week, or you have a fever for more than three days, then it's time to go to a clinic (keeping in mind your contagiousness). If you have any chronic medical conditions and are exposed to the flu or develop any of the symptoms, get medical help immediately because type A influenza may be more dangerous for you.
The flu shot is an easy way to lower your risk of getting sick during flu season. Plus, you won't be passing the virus around to your loved ones. Flu shots are made from dead viruses and cannot give you the flu, but they can cause an immune reaction from your body, so you may get some mild symptoms such as a slight fever and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the injection. Serious side effects of the injected flu vaccine are rare.
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.