Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious viral disease caused by the influenza virus that it is transmitted when people cough or sneeze or by contact with contaminated objects.
Sometimes the term flu refers to any type of upper respiratory tract infection. But the flu is more than just a simple cold and very contagious. There is usually an annual flu epidemics, usually in winter.
The flu is caused by a virus that can mutate relatively easily. For that reason, the virus each season will be probably different from the one of the previous seasons and, therefore, the immune system cannot recognize it as a threat.
The main symptoms, in addition to a general malaise, are:
The fever usually lasts from three to five days. The total recovery, if there are not additional complications, usually takes one to two weeks.
There is currently no medical treatment to cure the flu but it is possible to relieve common flu symptoms with medication (antipyretic, analgesics, etc.).
The flu is a viral infection and that is why antibiotics are not effective. The use of antibiotics can lead, in addition, to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics, in case of suffering from the flu, only should be used under medical prescription to treat or prevent complications in concrete cases.
In cases of high-risk patients or complications, it may be necessary hospital management with antiviral treatment and oxygen therapy depending on each case.
There are some tips that can help reduce the symptoms:
The flu is very contagious and it spreads by breathing in air when an infected person coughs or sneezes or just by physical contact. For that reason, it is necessary to cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and to keep hands clean.
If you are infected with the flu and live with people in high risk of suffering respiratory diseases you must wear a mask and avoid contact with them. For example:
It is also helpful to clean any surface that may be contaminated with respiratory droplets.
There is a seasonal flu vaccination. The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends the vaccination of the following high risk groups:
If you are infected, it is necessary to contact your doctor in case of: