Influenza

General Illness Information


Medical Term:

INFLUENZA

Common Name: (FLU)

Description:

A specific acute contagious, viral illness causing fever, runny nose, cough, headaches, generalized aches and pains, malaise and upper respiratory infection.

Incubation period is 24-48 hours.

Main types: A, B, & C, but can mutate to different forms.

Can affect most ages, especially infants.

Causes:

  • Infection by myxovirus class of viruses;
  • The viruses spread by personal contact or indirect contact.

Prevention:

  • Avoid risks listed above;
  • Visit your doctor for a yearly influenza vaccine injection if you are over age 65 or have chronic heart or lung disease. The vaccine only protects against two or three specific strains of influenza A;
  • Avoid unnecessary contact with persons who have upper-respiratory infections during the flu season.

Signs & Symptoms

Sudden onset of:

  • Chills. Moderate to high fever;
  • Muscle aches, including backache and headache. May last for days;
  • Cough, usually with little or no sputum;
  • Sore throat;
  • Hoarseness;
  • Runny nose;
  • Fatigue.

Risk Factors

  • Stress;
  • Excessive fatigue;
  • Poor nutrition;
  • Recent illness that causes lowered resistance;
  • Chronic illness, especially chronic lung or heart disease;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Diabetes;
  • Students due to close proximity to others in classrooms;
  • Immuno-suppression from drugs or illness;
  • Crowded places during an epidemic;
  • Health-care workers.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis is generally made by history and physical examination and confirmed by laboratory studies, such as blood tests (ELISA antigen test) and culture of nasopharyngeal swab; X-rays of the chest (only for complications).

General Measures:

  • To relieve nasal congestion, use salt-water drops (1 teaspoon of salt to 1 quart of water);
  • To relieve a sore throat, gargle often with warm or cold, double-strength tea or salt water or commercial products;
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture. This thins lung secretions so they can be coughed up more easily. Don’t put any medicine in the humidifier, it does not help. Clean humidifier daily;
  • To avoid spreading germs to others, wash your hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose or before handling food;
  • Use warm compresses or heating pad for aching muscles.

Medications:

  • For minor discomfort, you may use non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen, cough syrups, nasal sprays or decongestants;
  • Do not take aspirin. Some research shows a link between the use of aspirin (especially in children) during a virus illness and the development of Reye’s syndrome (a type of encephalitis);
  • An antiviral drugs, amantadine or rimantdine, for seriously ill persons or for those at greatest risk from complications may be prescribed.

Activity:

Rest is the best medicine. If you are in good health, rest helps your body fight the virus.

Diet:

  • Appetite is usually lacking. You may just want liquids at first, then progress to small meals of bland starch foods (dry toast, rice, pudding, cooked cereal, baked potatoes);
  • Drink at least 8 glasses a day (especially if you have a high fever). Extra fluids, including fruit juice, tea and non-carbonated drinks, also help thin lung secretions.

Possible Complications:

  • Bacterial infections, including bronchitis or pneumonia;
  • These can be especially dangerous for immuno-compromised patients, chronically ill persons or those over age 65.

Prognosis

Spontaneous recovery in 7 to 14 days if no complications occur. If complications arise, treatment with antibiotics is usually necessary, and recovery may take 3 to 6 weeks.

Other

Nothing Specified.

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