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Influenza (flu)

Introduction:

Influenza or ‘flu’ is a viral transmitted, contagious disease that spreads easily during seasonal epidemics, which causes the death of people with low immunity in their body. The most affected people are those who suffer from other complications, as well as aged people. In the ‘Spanish flu’ - A (H1N1) that occurred in 1918-1919, with the highest death toll (500,000) in the U.S and more than 20 million globally. 70,000 deaths were reported in the U.S during 1957-1958 due to the prevalence of ‘Asian flu’ - A (H2N2) and 34,000 deaths due to ‘Hong –Kong’ flu- A(H3N2) during 1968-1969. The mortality rate is 0.1% among the infected people.

Causes:

  • Type A virus enter the immune system through contact with the influenza patient or in the way of airborne transmission by inhaling the secretions of the infected person.
  • Having very low immunity  (pregnant women, asthma patients or infants)

Types of Influenza viruses:

There are three types, namely types A, B and C. Type A and B are associated with      severe illnesses that affect the respiratory system than the Type C.

There are two kinds of spreading manner of this disease:

  • Pandemic - Many people across the world fall sick due to flu pandemics such as smallpox. Recently there was a swine flu or A H1N1 pandemic.
  • Epidemic- Short outbreaks of flu that peaks for about 3 weeks. Their geographical pattern of outbreak is mostly predictable. Russian flu that occurred in 1977-1978 was epidemic.

Symptoms:

  • High grade fever (up to 103 degrees Fahrenheit or more)
  • Severe  respiratory tract infection
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Fatigue and body pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea in children
  • Fatal pneumonia (This may fall under complication)

Complications:

  • Secondary bacterial infection in the respiratory system
  • Bloody sputum (This may be shifted to Sign and symptoms)
  • Viral or bacterial Pneumonia
  • Pregnant women are susceptible to influenza after their fourteenth week of pregnancy.
  • Meningitis in children (inflammation of brain membrane)
  • Encephalitis (inflammation in the nervous system)
  • Increased risk of death

Diagnosis:

Since the symptoms of influenza are nearly similar to other bacterial and viral infections of the respiratory system, the patient will be hospitalized to diagnose influenza at an early stage. A rapid influenza diagnostic test (RIDT) is performed for the diagnosis of the disease, taking the throat swab or nasal swab sample. If pneumonia is suspected , a chest X-ray is taken.

Treatment:

If the flu symptoms persist for more than a week, consult a doctor. Steam inhalations can be taken to relieve nasal congestion. You can take cough suppressants according to the physician’s advice. Patients having dehydration problems will be administered oral or intravenous fluid by the hospital staff. Anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu will be prescribed by the doctor, as per the symptomatic indications.

Prevention:

  • Every year, vaccine should be given to individuals of the ages 6 months and above, especially to the people who are over 65 years of age, with other chronic health conditions, pregnant women and children under 5.
  • Travelers should be aware of the influenza season and get vaccinated before they start their journey.
  • Gargle with warm water with half a teaspoon of salt, if you have throat infection.
  • Frequently wash your hands to avoid contact with the virus.
  • Avoid visiting homes of people having flu.
  • Keep your home clean with occasional application of disinfectants.
 

Health Tips

Make a puree of 4 tomatoes. Soak some rice for 30 minutes and grind it coarsely. Add this to the pureed tomatoes. Apply this mixture all over the body and leave it on for about 15 minutes. Bathe with warm water; this is a good scrub recipe for oily skin.

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