Influenza is an acute respiratory disease caused by influenza A and B viruses, which usually occurs in an increased number or epidemic during the winter period. Common infections with other respiratory viruses that have the same or similar symptoms with the flu are registered this period.
In practice, it is difficult to make a difference whether it is a flu or a common cold just upon a symptomatology presented without making a laboratory, i.e. microbiological confirmation of the cause of the disease.
Therefore, without a reliable diagnosis these diseases are called “influenza like illnesses” (ILI) or are classified as acute respiratory infections (ARI).
The significance of the flu is important from two aspects:
- registering a large number of flu and influenza-related illnesses,
- loss of working hours, reduced productivity, overload and increased costs of health and social services (economic impact).
It is estimated that around 3-5 million people in the world are suffering from severe influenza-type infections every year, and about 250-500 of them die.
Causative of the disease?
There are several types of influenza viruses (type A, B and C), but of interest to man are influenza A and B viruses because they cause diseases in the human population.
How is is transmitted?
Influenza is an infectious disease that spreads directly from person to person, mainly through small drops that expel the infected person during coughing or sneezing, or indirectly through contact with respiratory secretions (liquids) of a diseased person who has contaminated his hands or surrounding surfaces by touching them, or the objects he used.
Symptoms of the disease occur 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. Most people can transmit the virus to another person 1 day before symptoms appear and 5-7 days after the illness has manifested. This means that a person can transmit the virus before he knows he is infected.
How is it manifested?
The disease has a sudden onset with high fever, headache, general malaise, exhaustion, muscle and joint pain, red and sore throat, tears in the eyes and cough secretion that is usually dry, unproductive. Every disease does not have to have all of the listed symptoms, and for some infected people, the disease can pass/presented without symptoms (according to some studies, that percentage ranges from 20-30%), or with mild symptoms of colds.
How is the diagnosis confirmed?
To confirm the diagnosis of influenza, a swab and nose material is taken and sent to a specialized laboratory, where the sample provided proves the presence of the virus or its parts. At a time when the flu is already widespread in the community and has a laboratory confirmation of this, no laboratory diagnosis is necessary for each individual case, but the diagnosis is a binder base of clinical signs and symptoms.
How is he treated?
Treatment of the flu, just like the cold, is symptomatic, that is, the symptoms are treated, and not the disease itself. Hygiene-dietary regime is carried out (resting, taking more fluids – hot drinks, light meals, vitamins and minerals), and on the recommendation of a doctor and depending on the severity of the disease, certain antiviral drugs can be given. Antibiotic therapy is given only in the case of secondary bacterial infections that exacerbate the course and outcome of the illness, that is, to treat complications of the flu, exclusively by the doctor’s order.
Specific prevention measures – vaccination
The influenza vaccine is the best preventive measure, especially recommended for people older than 65 years, people with chronic diseases and conditions of reduced immunity, as well as for children under 2 years of age. Vaccination against influenza is not a 100% guarantee that the vaccinated person will not get sick from the flu, but even if get a flu, it will be in a milder form and the risk of complications will be significantly reduced. The usage of drugs for the prevention of flu or influenza-like illness is not recommended.
General prevention measures
The general measures for protection against influenza are measures that target all acute respiratory diseases and can be of great benefit, especially if they are applied throughout the winter period:
- Avoid gathering and staying in rooms where more people are staying, especially avoiding close contact with people who are sick or suspicious – coughing, sneezing, having fever;
- Often wash your hands with water and soap or disinfectant!
- Heat the living rooms and frequent ventilation!
- It is recommended warm, layered dressing, warm baths!
- Drink warm drinks (teas and soups), fruit juices, lemon water.
- Take fresh products rich in vitamins and minerals, the best fruits and vegetables that are indispensable to the body.
Vitamin C rich products (citrons, lemons, oranges, peppers) are especially desirable. Multivitamin beverages and preparations can also be used if fresh food products are not always available.
- Propolis, echinacea, honey, ginger, garlic, etc. can be used as additional resources.
- Practicing a healthy lifestyle and healthy habits, including good sleep and rest, healthy food, maintain physical and psychological activity, reduce stress. Strong immunity will help you stay healthy or easier to deal with flu and flu-like illnesses.
However, even if you are perfectly healthy and have strong immunity, you may suffer from influenza or flu-like illness!
What if I get sick from the flu? How can I protect my family?
If you become ill from a flu or flu-like illness, then follow the following recommendations:
- Stay home and do not go to work, school, or wherever there are many people!
- Relax and take lots of fluids and light foods!
- Avoid close contacts with people you live with, do not receive visits while you are ill!
- Place a mask / handkerchief on your mouth and nose when contacting your dear ones at home when coughing and sneezing!
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap – often thoroughly, especially after sneezing or coughing!
- Use wet wipes that contain alcohol or hand disinfectant!
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands!
- Remove or disinfect contaminated objects from the environment adequately!
- Ventilate frequently the room where you are staying while you are ill!
- Maintain clean environment – items, surfaces with household hygiene!
- If you are over 65 years old or have chronic illnesses, or if symptoms of the disease worsen or last more days – seek medical attention!