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Beating the Flu

Understanding influenza and available vaccines

19357504_xxlCommonly referred to as the flu, influenza is a viral infection that attacks the body’s respiratory system – the nose, throat and lungs. If not managed well, influenza and its complications can be deadly. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, people who are immunocompromised (weak immune system), and people who are suffering from chronic illnesses, are at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu.

Common Colds versus Flu

While flu symptoms may seem like the common cold (runny nose, sneezing and sore throat), they tend to come on suddenly, as opposed to colds that slowly develop. More importantly, people stricken with flu usually feel much worse.

The common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever over 100°F (38°C)
  • Muscle aches, especially in your back, arms and legs
  • Chills and sweats
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Nasal congestion

Your Best Defence

Since flu is a viral infection, there is no cure. The best defence is a strong and healthy immune system, so that the body can fight back, along with receiving an annual flu vaccine. Taking daily supplements of multivitamins, especially the kind loaded with extra amount of Vitamin C, helps in improving the body’s immune system. Of course, it pays a lot if one’s diet is full of fresh fruits and vegetables. On the first bout of flu symptoms, it is best to see a doctor right away, as taking antiviral medication in the first 48 hours is crucial in preventing complications. Complications include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections, with pneumonia being the most common and most serious. Pneumonia can be deadly to the elderly population and those with chronic illnesses. Thus, it is best to be protected against pneumococcal and influenza viruses.

The Flu Virus and Vaccines

Healthy people get the flu virus through droplets in the air (when someone infected sneezes, coughs or talks), or through touching objects previously touched by an infected person. Being vaccinated against flu doesn’t mean being protected from all strains of the virus, as influenza viruses are constantly changing (new strains are appearing regularly), and spreads around the world in seasonal epidemics (i.e. H5N1, H1N1).

In developed countries, vaccinations against influenza are usually made available – even farmed poultry are vaccinated as well. In humans, the most common vaccine against the flu (traditional vaccine) is the trivalent influenza vaccine (TIV) – the vaccine usually contains purified and inactivated antigens from three viral strains (two influenza A virus subtypes and one influenza B virus strain). TIV vaccination has been proven safe and carries no risk of transmitting the disease. However, it is best to get an annual vaccination, since new strains rapidly evolve, making the old vaccine formulation ineffective against new strains. Today, quadrivalent flu vaccines (protect against four different flu viruses) are already available.

Table 1. Influenza vaccines – United States, 2013-14 Influenza season

Influenza Vaccines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Table condensed from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Flu Vaccine Options for 2013-2014 Flu Season. Visit www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6207a1.htm?s_cid=rr6207a1_w#Tab1 for complete information.

References and Further Reading:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-Key Facts about Seasonal Flu Vaccine, www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-Seasonal Influenza (Flu), www.cdc.gov/flu/

Mayo Clinic-Influenza (Flu), www.mayoclinic.com/health/influenza/DS00081

Medical News Today-What is Flu? What is Influenza? What are the Symptoms of Flu? www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/15107.php

Ministry of Health (MOH)-Influenza, www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/diseases_and_conditions/i/influenza.html

World Health Organization (WHO)-Influenza, www.who.int/influenza/en/

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by Gloria D. Gamat
Posted by ezyhealth on Dec 4 2013. Filed under Medical Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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