influenza-virus
Influenza virus

Have you ever suffered from runny nose or cough? Absolutely yes, most of the people have experienced them. These are actually the symptoms which are caused when our body gets infected with influenza – commonly referred to as flu.

What is Influenza?

Influenza is an infectious disease caused by certain type of viruses infecting the respiratory system of the body; mostly lungs, throat, and nose. Many people take influenza (flu) lightly because most of the time people can get rid of them easily. But, sometimes influenza can also be deadly if the conditions are very severe. If the disease is not treated on time, it may cause other diseases to take over on the body, such as pneumonia.

Influenza can infect the people of any age, but the probability of its development is more in children below the age of 5, old age people, and people whose immune system is quite weak due to any reason. When the body gets infected with influenza, it can show various symptoms. The most common symptoms of influenza are cough, headache, runny nose, fever, and tiredness.

Causes of Influenza

Influenza is a viral infection which is mostly spread to people from other people who are already infected with influenza. It is because influenza virus can easily travel through the air when a person coughs or sneezes. Also, infected people can contaminate things with the virus which they touch. So, when a healthy person touches contaminated things, influenza virus can also get in his body.

People who are infected with influenza virus have their hands contaminated with the virus. When you handshake with someone or someone coughs at you, it is good practice to wash your hands and take a shower soon.

Types of Influenza

Influenza has many types, but the main types are type A, B, and C. The most dangerous type of influenza is, A. Other than this, there are many genetic variants of these influenza types, called strains. These strains develop from time-to-time and almost every year we get a new strain of influenza virus that can’t be prevented with previous year’s vaccines. So, it is necessary to take the vaccine of influenza every year to decrease the chances of getting infected.

There are different names for different strains of influenza which are given letters; H and N for type A, and numbers. The H in the name of a strain of type A strain refers to Hemagglutinin and N refers to Neuraminidase. The strain of influenza that occurred in 1918 which caused more than 5 million deaths was H1N1. An influenza strain, also known as bird flu, is named as H5N1.

Prevention

People can get infected with influenza at any time because it is very difficult to avoid meeting with people or touching things. So, the best way to avoid influenza infection is to get a shot of vaccine every year. The vaccine doesn’t guarantee to prevent the virus 100%, but it highly reduces the chances of being infected. Influenza vaccines can be received by from age of 6 months and onwards. After getting a vaccine shot, it is still a good practice to wash hands regularly and the body in the season of flu.

Facts

  • There are around 33% of people who are infected with influenza don’t see any symptoms.
  • Most of the time, doctors recommend sleeping and drinking lots of water during flu infection.
  • Some vaccines of flu contain a small percentage of egg protein. If you are allergic to eggs, talk to your doctor first.

Cite this Page

Abdul Wahab, "Influenza," in Science4Fun, May 26, 2019, http://science4fun.info/influenza/.