Scroll Top

What Is the Flu?

What Is the Flu?


What you need to know about Flu

Are you concerned about contracting the flu? Do you want to learn how to avoid it? Then keep reading to discover more about influenza, including what it is, how it spreads, and who is most at risk. When it comes to flu prevention, knowledge is power!

What is the flu?

Influenza, more commonly known as the Flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza A, B or C viruses. Flu is most common in the winter and early spring. The flu virus enters the body through the upper and/or lower respiratory tracts.

What’s the difference between a cold and flu?

Colds and flu are both respiratory viral illnesses that are highly contagious. Although the symptoms are similar, the flu is far more severe. A cold can make you feel a little run down, but the flu can make you feel sick just thinking about getting out of bed.

Colds are characterised by congestion, sore throat, and sneezing. Both the cold and the flu can cause coughing (less common), headaches, and chest pain.

When you have the flu, however, you will most certainly have a high temperature for several days, as well as body pains, weariness, and weakness. The flu’s symptoms usually appear suddenly. Cold consequences are usually minor, but a flu infection can escalate to a life-threatening illness like pneumonia.

There are around 100 different types of cold viruses, and new flu strains emerge every few years. Antibiotics cannot treat the cold or the flu because they are both viral infections. Antibiotics are solely used to treat bacterial illnesses.

The flu can be treated with one of four antiviral medicines. However, no specialised drugs exist to combat the common cold. Antibiotics may be beneficial only if a secondary bacterial infection is present.

For in-depth information, see Pure Medical’s Flu Vaccine.

How are stomach flu and influenza different?

The term “stomach flu” is often used, however, it is not a medical diagnosis. It’s very uncommon for people to confuse gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, with the viral sickness known as the “flu.” Inflammation of the gastrointestinal system is referred to as gastroenteritis (stomach and intestines). The most prevalent cause of stomach flu is viruses. Symptoms of gastroenteritis include fever, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Read Pure Medical’s Stomach Flu or Influenza? for more information about gastrointestinal flu.

How is flu spread?

The flu virus spreads from person to person through respiratory secretions and usually affects large groups of people who are in close proximity, such as at daycare centres, schools, college dorms, military barracks, offices, and nursing homes.

When you breathe virus-containing droplets in the air, come into direct touch with respiratory secretions by sharing beverages or utensils or handle items contaminated by an infected person, you get the flu. The flu virus on your skin can infect you when you contact or rub your eyes, nose, or mouth in the latter situation. As a result, handwashing is an important part of limiting the transmission of influenza. Symptoms of the flu appear one to four days after the virus has been infected.

Who’s at the greatest risk for flu complications?

Infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and HIV are more vulnerable to flu complications. Despite breakthroughs in flu prevention and treatment, the ONS – Office for National Statistics estimates that influenza-related fatalities in the United Kingdom are around 30,000 per annum.

A flu vaccine, either a flu shot or a nasal spray flu vaccine, can prevent specific strains of flu. Antiviral drugs are now available to help prevent the flu. These medications are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms to help lessen the intensity and length of the illness.

See Pure Medical’s Flu Complications for more information.

Are there different types of flu viruses?

Researchers categorise flu viruses into three types: type A, type B, and type C. All three forms of influenza can mutate, or change into new strains, and Type “A” influenza mutates often, producing new strains every few years. This means that you will never be completely immune to influenza. Even if you produce antibodies to a flu virus one year, such antibodies are unlikely to protect you the following year against a new strain of the virus.

Type A mutations are to blame for significant flu epidemics every few years, as well as major pandemics that can happen, albeit they do so infrequently. Type B is less prevalent and is associated with milder flu symptoms. However, every three to five years, significant flu epidemics can develop with type B.

Although Type C produces infection, it does not cause flu-like symptoms. Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal consequence that generally affects children and teenagers under the age of 18, has been related to both influenza A and B. Reye’s syndrome outbreaks have been linked to influenza type B and chickenpox, although other viruses have also been implicated. Aspirin increases the risk of Reye’s syndrome, thus anyone under the age of 18 should avoid taking it if they have any viral symptoms or are recovering from the flu or another virus.

Most human influenza viruses appear to have originated in Asia, where constant contact between livestock and people produces an ideal setting for virus mutation and transmission. Swine, or pigs, can capture both avian and human viruses and act as hosts for these different viral strains to meet and change into new forms. The pigs then infect people with the new virus in the same way that people infect each other: by spreading viruses through droplets in the air they breathe.

See Pure Medical’s Types of Flu for more information.

What is avian flu, often known as bird flu?

Bird flu, often known as avian influenza, is an infectious disease of birds caused by influenza virus type A strains. Bird flu outbreaks have happened all across the world.

Because it has produced an enormous outbreak in poultry and wild birds across Asia and Eastern Europe, bird flu is a strong contender to be the next pandemic flu bug. No one knows for sure if this will be the start of the next human flu epidemic.

Understanding Avian or Bird Flu by Pure Medical provides in-depth information.