Flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses. Symptoms of flu involve muscle aches and soreness, headache, and fever. Flu viruses enter the body through the mucus membranes of your nose,eyes, or mouth. Every time you touch your hand to one of these areas, you are possibly infecting yourself with a virus.
Types of Flu Viruses
There are three types of flu viruses: A, B, and C. Type A and B cause the annual influenza epidemics that have up to 20% of the population sniffling, aching, coughing, and running high fevers. Type C also causes flu; however, type C flu symptoms are much less severe.
- Type A flu or influenza A viruses are capable of infecting animals, although it is more common for people to suffer the ailments associated with this type of flu. Wild birds commonly act as the hosts for this flu virus. Type A flu virus is constantly changing and is generally responsible for the large flu epidemics. The influenza A2 virus (and other variants of influenza) is spread by people who are already infected. The most common flu hot spots are those surfaces that an infected person has touched and rooms where he has been recently, especially areas where he has been sneezing.
- Unlike type A flu viruses, type B flu is found only in humans. Type B flu may cause a less severe reaction than type A flu virus, but occasionally, type B flu can still be extremely harmful. Influenza type B viruses are not classified by subtype and do not cause pandemics.
- Influenza C viruses are also found in people. They are, however, milder than either type A or B. People generally do not become very ill from the influenza type C viruses. Type C flu viruses do not cause epidemics.
Do Different Types of Flu Viruses Hit the Population Each Year?
Different strains of the flu virus mutate over time and replace the older strains of the virus. This is why it's important to get a flu shot each year to ensure that your body develops immunity to the most recent strains of the virus.
As determined by the CDC, the viruses in a flu shot can change each year based on international surveillance and scientists' estimations about which types and strains of the flu will be most potent that year. Previously, all flu vaccines protected against three influenza viruses: one Influenza A (H3N2) virus, one Influenza A (H1N1) virus, and one Influenza B virus. Today, FluMist and some traditional flu shots cover up to four strains: two Influenza A viruses and two Influenza B viruses.
What Is Bird Flu?
The avian influenza virus causes bird flu. Birds can be infected by influenza A viruses and all of its sub types. Birds are not capable of carrying either type B or C influenza viruses. There are three main sub types of avian flu, including H5, H7, and H9. The subtypes H5 and H7 are the most deadly, while the H9 subtype is less dangerous.
Should I Worry About Catching Bird Flu?
Most of the illnesses associated with bird flu have been reported in Asian countries among people who have had close contact with farm birds. Also, people are not able to catch the bird flu virus by eating cooked chicken, turkey, or duck. High temperatures kill the virus.
Prevention of Flu:
Take time to get a flu vaccine.
- CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
- Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
- Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the current season's vaccines are available.
- Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.
- People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.
- Vaccination also is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading flu to them.
- Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for infants should be vaccinated instead.
Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
Take flu antiviral drugs if a doctor prescribes them.
- If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness.
- Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.
- Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. , treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
- Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health condition or is very sick from the flu. Follow your doctor's instructions for taking this drug.
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