Influenza is an infectious disease that is popularly called the flu. Flu is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system (nose, throat, and lungs) and gets better without treatments most of the time, but it can also lead to serious health problems, including death.
According to CNBC.com, 10,000 people are already dead due to flu all across the United States, and 19 million people are sickened while 180, 000 people are hospitalized due to influenza as of 4th February 2020. This record is just for the year 2019 to the year 2020 flu season, which started in September 2019 and is proposed to end in May 2020.
According to the national institute of allergy and infectious disease, the 2019-2020 flu season will be one of the worst flu seasons in this decade.
How long does it take to get sick after being exposed to the flu?
Flu usually manifests two days after contacts with influenza and mostly lasts about seven days, but the cough may last for about 14 days and more.
How does the flu spread?
It is transmitted through:
- Airborne respiratory droplets (through cough, talking, or sneezing).
- Skin to skin contact (hugs or handshakes)
- Through saliva (shared drinks or kissing)
- By touching a contaminated surface (doorknobs, clothing items, e.g., a blanket)
The signs and symptoms of flu include:
- Fever and chills (goosebumps)
- Muscle pain
- Stuffy and runny nose
- Persistent Cough
- Decrease taste of foods /loss of appetite
- Fatigue (severe generalized weakness)
- Dehydration: dry skin, dry eyes
- Sore throat
- Swollen neck lymph nodes
- Difficulty in breathing (dyspnea) in some people
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza can be tricky to diagnose based on signs and symptoms alone because the symptoms of flu can be similar to other infectious agents. So it is advisable to seek medical help urgently if you have:
- Fever or cough that goes away and suddenly comes back
- Breathing difficulties
- Constantly dehydration and not urinating
- Dizziness, confusion, and severe stomach pain
- Feel pressure or pain in the chest
One more thing, It’s essential to underline that not everyone with flu will have a fever, says the CDC.
What is the main cause of influenza?
Flu is caused by influenza viruses, and the risk of been infected increases in those with:
- Weakened immunity
- Asthmatic patients
- Young children (infants to 5years old)
- Older adults (65years and above)
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic diseases such as bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis, COPD, chronic kidney disease and diabetes.
- Crowded living space
What happens if flu is not treated?
If left untreated, influenza can cause the following:
- Viral pneumonia
- Secondary bacterial pneumonia
- Worsening of asthma symptoms
- Worsening previous Heart failure
Diagnosis Of Flu
Several tests can help in the diagnosis of influenza, including:
- Rapid antigen testing.
- Rapid molecular assay.
- Polymerase chain reaction.
- Viral culture.
- Chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia
Prevention of Flu
The best way to prevent the flu include:
- Yearly vaccination
- Avoid crowded environments
- Wash hands after touching several surfaces
- Use hand sanitizers
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue paper or handkerchief to avoid contaminating your hands and the surfaces in your home. This will help prevent contaminating young children in the home or older adults at home
Treatment of Flu
- For a speedy recovery, the patient needs good rest
- Drinking plenty of water will help to quickly remove toxins formed by the virus, concurrently with the replacement of fluid losses.
- Antiviral Medications for Flu: Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), Zanamivir (Relenza), Laninamivir, Peramivir (Rapivab) and Baloxavir (Xofluza)
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and muscle pains
- Boost the immune system with vitamin C and fresh fruits/ veggies.
- Throat lozenges for sore throat
- Over-the-counter cough meds such as dextromethorphan
Many people who have the flu can be treated at home and often do not need to consult a doctor. However, in order not to get complications, it is better to seek medical help.
Finally, this post is informative. If you experience similar influenza symptoms, be sure to consult a doctor.