Influenza is best known by its short form known as flu. It is a contagious disease caused by a virus that spreads from one person to another.
The spreading is from hand to hand contact, shaking hands for example, and from the spray from coughs and sneezes which can stay for hours in the air for some time.
The virus enters the upper part of the respiratory tract through the mouth or nose. Symptoms appear after an incubation period of 1 to 4 days. Influenza usually occur during wet seasons.
Epidemics of influenza spread rapidly in the society and may occur at unpredictable intervals. It is important to mention that epidemics may die out when everyone who has been infected by a particular strain or type of flu virus becomes immune or resistant to further attacks by that virus.
The most common strains are; influenza A viruses known to infect humans, other mammals and birds (including Avian (bird) influenza), Influenza B viruses are known to infect humans, influenza C viruses less common but known to infect humans and pigs.
The type A of influenza virus is the most likely to cause epidemics and pandemics as they can quickly mutate.
Influenza viruses are named by two surface proteins, H (hemagglutinin) or N (neuraminidase).
The H is the safecracker which gets the virus into the cell and the N gets the virus back out (the exit side) of the cell after it is affected to move on. The exit side is what tamiflu and other anti-virals work to resist.
Early symptoms of flu can include chills, fever, sneezing, headache, muscle pain and a sore throat. These are usually followed by a dry, hacking cough and, often, chest pains.
The fever generally lasts for 3 to 5 days but leaves you feeling weak. If there are no complications, you should recover within 1 or 2 weeks although you may feel weak for a few weeks to come.
Sometimes flu symptoms are confined mainly to the upper respiratory tract. But if you have a bacterial infection complicating the flu, it could spread from the upper respiratory tract down into the lungs and cause bronchitis or pneumonia.
This usually occurs in very young children, elderly folk or those with diabetes, chronic chest disorders and chronic heart disease.
If a person present with flu-like symptoms, there might be a different viral disease. Influenza spreads quickly and many people can suffer from the disease in a short period of time.
In case infected with the virus, a person will have to; go to bed, drink plenty of fluids. If the fever persists more than 3 or 4 days or if you have difficulty breathing while resting, there is urgent need to contact a doctor.
People should cover mouth if they sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with a tissue. Do not shake hands with anyone and frequently wash your hands.