Influenza (Flu) – Find out Causes, Symptoms and Solutions

nfluenza is a viral infection caused by the flu virus. Typically affecting the nose, throat and lungs, its symptoms are sometimes confused with the common cold but are in fact more severe. The virus can cause infections all year round, but in the UK it’s most common in the winter. Influenza is a highly contagious condition, and although most can fight off the symptoms over time, the very young and very old, are most susceptible to being put at serious risk.

Anti-viral flu treatment can help those who are already experiencing symptoms, and those who are worried they may have been in contact with someone who is already affected. A prescription treatment can help suppress the symptoms and lessen its severity. All you need to do is fill out a consultation when you place your order so our doctor can check this is the right medication for you.

What is influenza?

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is from the RNA virus group in the orthomyxoviridae family and can be referred to as an acute respiratory illness caused by an infection when the influenza virus enters the body. It is a contagious illness that can easily be passed around through the ingestion of air and mist particles through sneezing and coughing. When in the body, it quickly looks to multiply by taking over cells in the body and replicating this process. A person’s immunity level as well as treatment of symptoms will determine how long the body’s anti-bodies take to fight off the virus and regain control.

The flu virus (influenza) is divided into 3 types; type A, B and C.

  • Type A – more common and is constantly changing, making it the major cause of most flu outbreaks in the country. As almost all Type A viruses can be found in birds, this flu type is usually passed mostly through contact with infected poultry.
  • Type B – also very common, but is mostly identified by a seasonal pattern. It only occurs in humans and the symptoms are typically less severe than Type A
  • Type C – is rare and causes either a very mild respiratory illness or no symptoms at all. It is not known to cause any pandemics or flu outbreaks

Influenza viruses continually change over time, usually by mutation. This constant change enables the virus to evade the immune system so that the host is susceptible to the latter infections throughout their life, increasing the need for regular treatment. These changes can either be in the form of:

Antigenic drift (slow mutation over time) whereby there is enough change in the virus for the body not to recognise it each year, whereby you would require a flu vaccine each year to protect you from these changes.

The antigenic shift on the other hand occurs when the morphology of the flu virus happens suddenly and new flu sub-types are created. It is harder for the body to create any form of immunity against these new changes and they can cause severe flu pandemics or epidemics.

How does influenza spread?

Influenza is usually passed on when people breathe in or ingest liquid droplets containing the influenza virus. These can either have been sneezed or coughed into the air and can even be left on surfaces. You can catch the virus from another person when you make physical contact with a body part that may host the virus such as the mouth or hands. For example, if you have flu symptoms and you touch your nose or eyes and then touch someone else, you may pass the virus on to them. Similarly, if someone with the virus touches any hard surfaces such as door handles without their hands being washed, then others who touch those surfaces may also contract it.

Preventing the spread of influenza

You can prevent the spread of influenza by carefully monitoring your hygiene and minding how you interact with others especially during the initial incubation period. Other steps that should be taken to prevent the spread of the flu virus include:

  • Ensuring that your hands are regularly washed
  • Disinfecting surfaces after use
  • Using a tissue or handkerchief to cover the mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Don’t touch your nose, eyes or mouth
  • Take care of your health for faster recovery e.g. sleep well, eat well and drink a lot of fluids e.g. lemon tea

What are the symptoms of influenza (flu)?

Symptoms of this virus can usually last for up to a week or more after you become infected, with certain symptoms lingering for some time after the main symptoms clear.

The typical symptoms associated with the flu virus include:

  • Fever (usually 37-39 degrees celsius, sometimes higher in children)
  • Respiratory related problems such as a cough, sore throat and a runny or blocked nasal passage.
  • Muscle aches including extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Headaches with varying intensities
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms are rare, but can also occur, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea etc

The majority of people that contract the flu usually recover completely within two weeks, but those with a weakened immune system may take longer or even develop serious, life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia. Each flu season differs in severity and length therefore the cases of serious illnesses or deaths due to the flu virus differs also. Although there has been a rise in the past 20 years of annual flu related deaths, very young children, pregnant women and the elderly have been known to be more susceptible to the serious complications of influenza compared to younger healthier people.

Preventing the contraction of influenza

An annual vaccination can help to prevent certain strains of the influenza so that you remain immune to local outbreaks. The vaccine is made from inactivated and sometimes non-infective cells of the virus and is specifically recommended for those who are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from an influenza infection. High-risk groups include those over the age of 65 years, children under 8, people with chronic diseases of the heart, lung, or kidneys; diabetes and severe forms of anaemia.

A strong immune system also proves very beneficial when fighting the flu virus. A healthy balanced diet consisting of Vitamin C and regular exercise can help you avoid or even fight off the infection faster.

What treatment is available for flu (influenza treatment)?

Anti-viral medication is the most effective influenza treatment currently available. Prescription anti-viral treatments can help to reduce the duration of mild flu by 1 – 2 days and make the symptoms much easier to cope with. For a convenient way to treat influenza, you can place an order online by completing a quick online medical consultation for Tamiflu (oseltamivir).

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