The goal of treatment for influenza is to help prevent or decrease the severity of symptoms. Influenza treatment may include a Influenza Vaccine (Flu Shot).
Your main goal is to avoid the flu at all costs. According to the American Lung Association, an influenza vaccination is about 70% effective in preventing influenza, or reducing its severity, and is considered safe.
However, vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year, depending upon the degree of similarity between the influenza virus strains included in the vaccine and the strain or strains that circulate during the influenza season. Vaccine strains must be chosen 9 to 10 months before the influenza season, and sometimes mutations occur in the circulating strains or viruses between the time vaccine strains are chosen and the next influenza season. These mutations sometimes reduce the ability of the vaccine-induced-antibody to inhibit the newly mutated virus, thereby reducing vaccine effectiveness.
Vaccine effectiveness also varies from one person to another, depending on factors such as age and overall health. Specific treatment will be determined by your doctor based on:
- medical history
- extent of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectation for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference
- If you are 65 years of age and older
- persons of any age who have chronic diseases of the heart, lung or kidneys, diabetes, immunosuppression, or severe forms of anemia
- persons who are less able to fight infections because they have a congenital disease or disorder,or have Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
An influenza virus is generally passed from person to person by airborne transmission (sneezing or coughing). But, the virus can also live for a short time on objects -- such as doorknobs, pens/pencils, cell phones, keyboards, eating and drinking utensils, and so forth. Therefore, it may also be spread by touching something that has been handled by someone infected with the virus and then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes. Always wash your hands after using the restroom, this is very very important. Hand washing is key to preventing the virus from spreading.
For prevention of influenza, you may consider getting the Influenza Vaccine (Flu Shot). The most serious side effect that can occur after influenza vaccination is an allergic reaction in people who have a severe allergy to eggs. For this reason, people who have an allergy to eggs should not receive the influenza vaccine.
The National Center for Infectious Diseases of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that influenza vaccine causes no side effects in most people who are not allergic to eggs. Less than one-third of people who receive vaccine experience some soreness at the vaccination site, and about 5 to 10% experience mild side effects, such as headache or low-grade fever for about a day after vaccination. Because these mild side effects mimic some influenza symptoms, some people believe influenza vaccine causes them to get influenza.
Influenza viruses continually mutate or change, which enables the virus to evade the immune system of its host. This makes people susceptible to influenza infection throughout their lives. The process works like this:
- A person infected with influenza virus develops antibody against that virus.
- The virus mutates or changes.
- The "older antibody no longer recognizes the "newer" virus.
- Reinfection occurs. (The older antibody can, however, provide partial protection against reinfection.
Currently, three different influenza strains circulate worldwide: two type A viruses and one type B. Type A viruses are divided into subtypes based on differences in two viral proteins called hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). The current subtypes of influenza A are designate A(H1N1) and A(H3N2).
- Influenza types A and B are responsible for epidemics of respiratory illness that occur almost every winter and are often associated with increased rates for hospitalization and death. Efforts to control the impact of influenza are focused on types A and B.
- Influenza type C usually causes either a very mild respiratory illness or no symptoms at all. It does not cause epidemics and does not have the severe public health impact that influenza types A and B do.
Influenza can make people of any age ill. Although most people are ill with influenza for only a few days, some have a much more serious illness and may need to be hospitalized. Influenza can also lead to pneumonia and death. Influenza ( or flu) is a highly contagious viral infection, which is one of the most severe illnesses of the winter season, and now it has become somewhat severe in the spring and summer seasons. An estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population in the United States contract influenza each year.
Influenza is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system, that is why influenza is called a respiratory disease. The nose, bronchial tubes, and lungs are all affected during the viral infection. People usually become acutely ill, by the abrupt on set of:
- loss of appetite
- aching of the head, back, arms, and legs
- muscle aches and joint pain
- sore throat and a dry non-productive cough
- runny nose
The goal of treatment for influenza is to help prevent or decrease the severity of symptoms. Treatment may include:
- Medications to relieve aches and fever (Aspirin should not be given to children with fever without first consulting with your doctor.)
- Bed rest and increased intake of fluids (sipping little amounts all day long).
- Medications for congestion and nasal discharge.