Flu information

Influenza (otherwise called “flu”) is one of the oldest and globally spread contagious virus illnesses in the world. It is an acute disease that affects respiratory organs and leads to general intoxication of the organism. According to historic reference, first flu epidemic was registered in England in the 16th century. Since then, there were outbursts of the disease happening every 20-50 years in different parts of the world. The toughest pandemics broke out in 1918, when the death rate of 50 mln. people outnumbered the victims toll of the First World War. In 1933 the research done by scientists from Medical Research Council proved that the infection is spread by viruses, several years later A, B and C types of viruses were discovered. The A and B types can easily mutate and alter, that is why it is impossible to make a universal antidot killing all the flu germs. The C type occurs sporadically and rarely causes a lot of discomfort, being experienced milder.

Flu spread infection

Influenza is the disease spread mostly in public places: schools, shops, transport, work environment. Flu is an airborne infection that is transmitted between people. The disease can be passed in case of direct contact with the ill – it makes the penetration of viruses almost inevitable. Another way is when the ill exhales, sings and talks, and the air is filled with droplets containing infection. If the patient coughs or sneezes, the volume of viruses exhaled is much bigger.

Many specialists reckon that droplets do not reach objects further than 6 feet, but it depends on the particles and their size. The droplets of 1-4 microns size can stay suspended in the air for long periods travelling to other rooms. It goes without saying that they are harder to be detected by the body and can travel to the lower respiratory tract. The third way of transmission is realized through the contact with the objects with viruses on their surface: eating utensils, tables, towels, etc.

In order to prevent catching flu up several measures can be undertaken:

  • The ill person should stay in a separate room from the rest of family;
  • The rest should avoid direct contact with the ill (hugs, kisses, etc.);
  • The ill can wear face mask while being in one room with the rest;
  • All family members including the ill should wash their hands using soap or use alcohol-based hand rub;
  • The ill should have his own eating and washing utensils during and 7 days after the disease.

Flu season

Usually flu spreads during the cold half of the year, because in this time the air is colder and less humid. The germs live longer in low temperatures, and lack of humidity allows the virus to be suspended for a longer period. But the high time of flu is always unpredictable – the immunologists cannot say when exactly will the disease outburst, because the germs are constantly mutating and acquiring new features. The peak of flu can be observed in winter time, from December to February, but the virus can be active from October to May. As a rule, local epidemics have a 3-week peak and 3-week period of diminishing.

The epidemics of A-type virus happens every two-three years and affects about 20-50% of population during 30-45 days. The virus of B-type spreads slower, affecting up to 25% of population during 2-3 months. The C-type virus does not produce epidemics and occurs sporadically. Regarding the fact that the population gets infected during epidemics only partially, new people catch the virus every time it starts spreading in mutated forms. Local viral types cause only seasonal outbreaks of flu.

Flu incubation period

The flu incubation period lasts from 12 to 48 hours, being in average two days long. The infected adults can contaminate the others one day before the symptoms arise and stay contagious during 5-10 days after the illness revealed itself. Although the infectivity decreases rapidly in 3-5 days after getting ill. As for children, they can be the source of germs for several days before the disease onset, and stay contagious for ten days after getting ill. People with extremely weak immune system may bear the virus for weeks and even months staying infectious all this time.

Flu death rate

After the outburst of Spanish flu in 1918 which killed up to 50 mln. people worldwide, the death toll has fallen. The next pandemic, Asian flu that spread from China, happened in 1957-58 and caused at least 70,000 deaths. Hong Kong flu killed about 34,000 people in the Northern America taking place in 1968-69.

In 1943 the first vaccine against influenza was created, that is why the number of infected has become less in recent times. According to the statistics, during 1976-1990 the average number of lethal cases of flu was 19,000 per season. In 1990-1999 this number increased to 36,000 deaths annually, with the virus of A type serving as the major reason.

Rates show that although the disease spreads in all age categories, the adults older than 65 are in high-risk group. There is 98% probability that an aged person will get complications after the disease or even die. Young children and people with a weak immune system or chronically ill are also predisposed to catching the infection and getting complications.

Flu occurring globally affects 5-10% of adults and 20-30% of children. Every year there are from 3 to 5 mln. cases of severe diseases which lead to 250-500 thousands of deaths.

Flu signs and symptoms 2015-2016

The symptoms of influenza remind of ones for cold, but reveal several hours later after getting infected and are harder to go through. The difference is that cold is easier to get through, milder to experience. In case of flu, such symptoms as cough, headache and fever are more intense, although can disappear faster if being treated by medicines. Cold also does not lead to hospitalization and complications (pneumonia, bacterial infections).

Recent forms of flu are almost the same as usual seasonal flu. But, according to different research, new mutated types of flu appearing in the 21st century often cause disorders of digestion, nausea, vomiting, stomachaches and loss of appetite.

Early flu symptoms

Detecting of early flu symptoms can help to cure the disease faster and avoid complications. Although the virus is not so active during first two days, flu onsets with sudden fatigue. How can it be distinguished from usual tiredness? If the person feels extreme weakness that interferes into normal everyday activities, it can mean his body is preparing to fight the infection.

Aches and chills can appear together and out of sudden, as well as weakness and fever. Usually the feeling of pain affects legs and head. Other symptoms that appear first are severe dehydration of body, bluish color of lips and skin, confusion and dizziness connected with weakness and headaches.

Spanish flu

Pandemics of influenza has been observed by humanity starting from the 17th century. As it was mentioned, the toughest one of 1918, called Spanish flu, killed up to 50 mln. people. This is the most devastating disease in recorded world history that lasted only a year. It appeared in Northern America, starting affecting the people from 20 to 40 years, which is unusual of the disease that is more likely to get caught up by young children and the elderly. The first ones who infected recovered quickly, but the second wave was far more brutal and mortal. Later the lack of attention and treatment of the first wave patients was criticized. U.S. soldiers were the ones to bring it to Europe, because it experienced the First World War outburst. Pandemics were recorded also in Asia, Africa, South Pacific, India (there the death toll reached 50 people per 1000 infected) and Brazil.

Spanish flu affected 28% of all American population and a fifth part of the world’s population. Some anecdotes describe the cases when the disease killed people within hours. As far as the vaccine had not been created yet, people could not treat it anyhow, so they had nothing to do with it. Severely ill people just suffocated and suffered from pains and fevers before finally dying.

The sources of the epidemics are still unknown. Some reckon that it is a mutated form of flu from China that underwent a rare genetic shift. According to another opinion, the epidemic was caused by biological warfare created by Germans. Many thought that the virus spread due to gases and fumes that were produced in the war. Different studies proved that weather and climate conditions together with low humidity have created good conditions for the virus.

Flu symptoms in adults

Usually seasonal flu starts revealing itself from a sudden outburst of rough fever that is characterized by high temperature, weakness, shivering and chilling. During the first day the temperature can reach the level of 38-40 °С (100 degrees Fahrenheit or more). Then the ill starts coughing (cough is dry, as a rule), suffering from headaches locating in frontal and superciliary parts of the skull, pain in muscles and joints, feels unwell. The person can also complain about general intoxication, problems with digestion, bad appetite. Such symptoms as sore throat and running nose also occur, but they are typical of usual cold, so these two alone cannot be put into account when defining what disease the person experiences. But if it is accompanied by aches behind the breast, chest tightness, husky voice and pain during coughing, these are the signs of flu. Another symptom is pain in the eyes, photophobia and tearfulness.

As far as the illness affects the respiratory organs, the cough should be cured immediately. Otherwise, it gets harder and lasts two or more weeks, turning into wet and causing colored phlegm secretion. If normally treated, the symptoms diminish within a week without special medical invasion.

Flu symptoms in kids (children)

Generally, children have the same symptoms as adults do, but those can appear earlier and be more difficult to bear. They reveal themselves abruptly and make children feel bad during the first 2-3 days of onset. Flu is characterized by such symptoms as:

  • Constant sleepiness, sudden weakness;
  • Pain in muscles;
  • Fever with shakes and chilling;
  • Sore throat;
  • Dry hacking cough;
  • Headache;
  • Running nose;
  • High temperature level (may be up to 104 degrees F).

One more kind of symptoms is mostly observed in children and the elderly people. It is the gastrointestinal problem. The infection may cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, nausea and bad appetite. If vomiting and diarrhea should be treated properly, becuse these long-term symptoms may lead to dehydration.

H1N1 (Swine Flu) symptoms

Swine flu is called this way because previously it was transmitted to those who had direct contact with pigs. Now, though, it can be passed between people only, because a new form of virus has developed, so it is not about the pigs at all.

In 2009 the virus spread quickly around the world and was called a pandemic. Now, when the flu vaccine includes H1N1 type, the disease is not extremely dangerous, though it exists and continues to be transmitted. It spreads just as the usual seasonal influenza does – by droplets produced when the ill person speaks, coughs and sneezes. They reach other people and accumulate on surfaces, so the ways of contamination are the same as discussed before: by direct contact or by usage of the ill’s personal stuff. Infection is not transmitted if one eats prepared pork, bacon or ham.

The symptoms of swine flu are identical to the seasonal ones. These include fevers, dry cough, stuffy nose, headaches, pain in body, chills, sore throat, severe and extreme tiredness. But the difference is that people infected with the swine flu often complain about the problems with stomach. So if one feels dizzy, vomits a lot, has abdominal pain, shortness of breath and confusion, it can be the sign of H1N1.

Another specific feature of the swine flu is that it the respiratory organs more and causes more serious complications, such as respiratory failures and pneumonia.

In order to clear the situation up, one can buy a special test sold in pharmacy. It can help to define exactly what kind of disease has onset.

Flu virus treatment

Flu should be treated immediately after the disease has revealed itself. Special medicine is a crucial part of right treatment, but it is not the only way of fighting with the symptoms and viruses. Several conditions must also be followed:

  • The ill should stay in bed most part of the day. Such regime lasts at least for a week or two. Work load and physical exercise should be excluded. The more person sleeps, the faster he/she will recover, because it gives the energy to resist against the infection.
  • The rooms where the ill stays must be warm, the person must avoid getting cold so that not to make temperature drop rapidly. It is better to keep the ill apart from the family, puting him in a separate room. The air inside should be humid – it will retard the spread of infection.
  • The more the patient drinks water, the better he will feel. Dehydration is one of the conditions that makes cure slower. Doctors advise such beverages as hot tea, juices, fruit drinks – everything rich in vitamins C and P.
  • When the illness has onset, ione should start taking vitamin pills that help to strengthen the immune system.
  • In order to help the respiratory organs, one can use special medicines for sore throat and runny nose, use special chest rub with menthol and eucalyptus and other balms that help to breathe better. No aerosol therapy should be done until the doctor prescribes! Otherwise, it may provoke the virus travel further in the respiratory ways and cause wet cough with mucus.

Flu vaccine

The safest and most effective method of prevention is a vaccine made in time. Since the first vaccines with A and B strains appeared in 1943, the number of people suffering from flu and its complications has lowered. Vaccination is totally safe and available for everybody, there are always free injections that can be done voluntarily for all.

The World Health Organization proposes vaccination for the following people:

  • Young children up to 5 years (they are especially susceptible for the infection and become virus's victims in public places);
  • The elderly (those of age 65 and more). Although the vaccine can be less effective for them, it may still reduce the complications and make the onset milder;
  • Pregnant women, no matter what the stage is;
  • People with chronic diseases and those with weak immune system;
  • Doctors, workers of medical sphere.

As a rule, injection done in a right way does not affect health and cannot cause any complications except sleepiness and temperature rising (up to 38 degrees) for a short period. The vaccination is better to be postponed if the person had been ill recently, feels unwell or donated blood at least a week ago.

The vaccination can be done annually if there are no contra-indications. WHO recommends having these vaccinations done every six months. This can provide effective protection as far as viruses mutate every year and each season the new kinds appear. Typically, a vaccine consists of three virus types – two subtypes of A and a B viruses. Since 2014, there are quadrivalent (four component) influenza vaccines which protect against the flu of B-type better.

Complementary methods of flu treatment

Influenza treatment by drugs cannot be done without doctor’s prescription. But before the recipe is given, several measures may be undertaken to ease symptoms and improve condition of the patient.

The ill should eat food rich in natural anti-bacterial substances, for instance, onions and garlic. Moreover, many herbs, berries and fruits help to fight with germs: chamomile, melissa, salvia, calendula, cowberry, dog-rose, milfoil, etc. Different herbal teas and tinctures might be very helpful, but the patient should be aware of his allergic reactions to this or that herb. If there are gastroenterological problems, such treatment can aggravate them. In this case, fruit drinks and compotes may be a better solution. Raspberry and blackberry have febrifuge effect.

Natural honey is a good remedy that helps to boost the immune system, it is reach in vitamins and minerals and also allows to resist germs. It can be consumed being mixed with the juice from black radish or onion juice.

If the temperature keeps on its average level, the patient can put the feet into hot water mixed with mustard powder. After that, warm socks must be put on so that to keep warmth as long as possible. That helps to get warmer, to ease pain in joints.

These methods cannot cure the illness, if not combined with a proper medical treatment, so this is rather an addition to pills and syrups. Flu is an illness hard to cure due to its viral nature and multitude of symptoms. But of the disease is defined in time, there are all chances to get rid of it quickly and avoid any complications.