Influenza, or commonly called flu, is a respiratory illness caused by a specific flu strain of the flu virus. There are various types of flu virus that are known. These are classified as type A, B and C. Type A and B are known to cause severe respiratory symptoms like fever, fatigue, headache, runny nose and congestion. These types can lead to epidemics since they are extremely infectious and can travel from one person to another by direct contact, sneezing and coughing. Type C causes relatively milder symptoms and almost always never becomes an epidemic. Each of these flu viruses can mutate and therefore they keep changing making permanent vaccines impossible.
Different influenza types are caused by different flu strain viruses that may exist. Even though there are three main types of flu virus that are known, type A has been further subdivided into sub types based on the two proteins that appear on the surface of the virus. These proteins are called the hemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N). The 12 known H subtypes and 9 known N sub types can combine in various ways to create different influenza types that can affect humans.
The best way to ensure prevention against any of the influenza viruses caused by different flu viruses is to get vaccinated for them. However the issue arises due to the constant mutations that these viruses undergo. The mutations ensure that the virus does not remain the same and modifies in such a manner that the natural or acquired immunity against the previous flu strain is no longer effective.
While pandemics like the swine flu pandemic occur infrequently, the seasonal flu outbreak occurs each year. It is possible to try and avoid the seasonal flu outbreak that affects anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent Americans each year by avoiding sneezing and coughing people or being extremely particular about personal hygiene. However, such avoidance is not practical and it is, in fact, better to protect yourself by taking influenza shots each year. In most cases the seasonal flu vaccine contains a mix of different strains of flu viruses to ensure protection against a variety of strains.
In most cases, the fever, headache and cold that results from infection form the seasonal flu virus reduce in a few days and only symptomatic treatment is required. However, if the symptoms worsen and adequate care is not taken the complications can include pneumonia, lung collapse, breathing difficulties and more. Antiviral medicines to control the spread of the virus, medication to keep the fever under control and adequate fluids to avoid dehydration are necessary. You should also keep a check on the different flu strain virus vaccine that are developed so that new mutations can also be guarded against.
Some information for Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine and other ways of treatment can be found in your hospital. Ask your doctor now.
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