What is Influenza or Flu?
Influenza is an acute respiratory tract infection brought about by the virus of the Orthomyxoviridae family. It is the most widely recognized and extremely infectious airborne illness. The influenza virus contaminates your lungs, throat, and nose. They spread mainly through coughing or sneezing without covering your mouth or nose, and they can also spread by touching a contaminated surface and then touching the mouth, eyes, or nose.
Hospitals provide home care services like home vaccinations, doctor home visits, a nurse at home services for patients affected by influenza and many other diseases. It is advisable to get vaccinated to avoid the flu.
Types Of Influenza
There are three types of influenza – influenza virus A, B and C.
Influenza virus A and B are common types of the flu, but the influenza virus C genus is quite rare. But when it does strike, it can be dangerous to certain populations, although it mostly causes mild symptoms.
Each of these types has only one species, but they have numerous subtypes, called serotypes. These serotypes are based on the antibody responses to various flu subtypes.
There are at least 11 subtypes of influenza virus A, probably the most dangerous of the three flu types. The mutation rate of influenza A is very fast. This virus can move between birds, pigs and humans that might eventually move to humans.
The most prevalent serotypes of influenza A are H1N1 (called the Spanish or swine flu), H2N2 (called the Asian flu), H3N2 (called the Hong Kong Flu) and H5N1 (called the bird flu).
There are two strains of influenza virus B circulating in the present scenario. The B genus does not mutate frequently, and it only infects humans, seals, and ferrets, so it is a lot more difficult for a new strain to attack humans.
There appears to be only one strain of influenza virus C circulating. Influenza C does not frequently mutate or never at all.
So, based on this, we could safely say that there are at least 14 different “types” of flu spread over 3 types.
Causes Of Influenza
Infected people can pass the flu on to others even before they experience their own symptoms. Young children and people with weak immune systems may be at higher risk of infecting others for more extended periods.
The influenza virus contaminates the nose, lungs, and throat. It spreads when an infected person talks to another person at a close distance or sneezes or coughs when other people are around. Droplets containing the virus enter the other person’s body through their mouth, nose, or eyes and then cause infection.
According to research, the best evidence is that influenza is usually spread by large droplet transmission, occurring within six feet of an individual.
The influenza virus can live on surfaces for a few hours. Studies show that viruses are still active even after four hours on most surfaces and up to nine hours on some non-porous surfaces. The virus may land on the surface due to respiratory droplets or hands contaminated by respiratory secretions, but they disappear within 24 hours.
Touching your nose, eyes, and mouth after touching a contaminated surface and social interactions such as shaking hands can transmit the virus.
Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Wash your hands with soap regularly.
- Avoid work, school or going out of the house when you are infected.
- Cover your mouth and nose. It is advisable to wear a mask.
- Sneeze or cough on your elbows and not your palms.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth unnecessarily.
- Use sanitisers when you are outside and do not have the facility for washing your hands with soap.
- Practice other good healthy hygiene habits.
- Get Vaccinated.
The only best way to prevent seasonal flu or influenza is to get vaccinated every year. Home care services in Kolkata provide vaccinations under expert guidance and trained nurses at home.
Still, healthy habits like avoiding people who are sick, covering your cough, and washing or sanitizing your hands regularly can help stop the spread of the virus and prevent respiratory illnesses like flu. There are also antiviral drugs that can treat and prevent flu.