Every flu season, a large portion of the American population will become infected. How severe the flu is will differ from one person to the next and depends on many variables.
The most critical factors in determining how ill a person will become are age and their overall health. The flu types a person is infected with also play a significant part.
Thanks to the mass media causing annual hysteria during flu season, many people don’t have a grasp of what the flu really is. Most people have many questions.
What are the different flu types? What are the real facts behind this illness? Continue reading to learn everything you need to know.
What Is the Flu?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by varying forms of the influenza virus. These viruses can affect your throat, nose, and even your lungs.
The symptoms of the flu vary wildly. The signs will change based on the flu types, the health of the person, and how severe the illness ends up being. Generally, however, the flu presents with some or all of the following symptoms:
- Fever (with or without chills)
- Cough, sneezing, and sore throat
- A stuffy or runny nose
- Headaches and body aches
- A general sense of feeling unwell
- Vomiting and diarrhea (usually in children)
The flu can progress into other illnesses, like walking pneumonia. When this occurs, other symptoms (like difficulty breathing) may occur. If flu symptoms get worse instead of better, it’s essential to visit a doctor right away.
1. There Are Annual Epidemics
The media likes to sensationalize everything, but flu epidemics are nothing new. They happen every year.
The term “epidemic” refers to a spike in the number of people infected with an illness. From December to March of every year, this happens with the flu.
2. Flu Is the Leading Cause of Death in Long-Term Care Facilities
The flu isn’t usually fatal in ordinary, healthy people. The deaths you hear of in the general, healthy population are typically related to complications from type A influenza.
The flu is lethal in at-risk populations like the elderly, however. It’s the leading cause of death in long-term care facilities. Consider staying home instead of visiting your loved one next time you feel ill to avoid these dangers.
3. You’re Contagious Before You Know You’re Sick
Before you develop any symptoms, you’re already spreading the flu to those around you. This is one of the reasons the flu spreads so quickly during the annual epidemic.
How long you’re contagious before you know you’re sick depends on which type or strain of the flu you have. Generally, you can begin infecting people you come into contact with around two days before you feel ill.
4. It’s Easier to Transmit Than You Think
You already know the flu can be spread through coughing and sneezing. This is why you cough or sneeze into your elbow.
Unfortunately, science has proven the flu spreads a lot easier than that. If you’re breathing, you can spread the flu to those nearby, so make sure to stay home from work, school, and social gatherings to avoid infecting others.
5. Flu Vaccines Aren’t 100% Effective
Influenza viruses are continually evolving, so it’s hard to protect yourself from them entirely. Many people think they’re unable to get the flu after receiving an annual vaccine. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.
On any given year, the flu vaccine is only forty to sixty percent effective at preventing the flu. The reason it isn’t (and never will be) completely effective is there are many strains.
Upon learning that flu vaccines aren’t entirely effective, many people feel they aren’t worth it—but that’s far from the case.
Receiving the flu vaccine will help prevent you from getting the most prevalent strains in any given year. Vaccines will also help your body build up immunity to different flu strains. They’re our best defense against the flu and are still worth getting.
6. The Flu Makes You More Social
This is a strange one. Scientists have proven that being infected with the flu virus makes people more social. For whatever reason, the virus affects usual human social behavior.
The study found that for 48 hours after being infected with the flu, people interact with significantly more people than they would normally. This behavior, of course, leads to a higher number of people being infected before the contagious individual knows they’re sick.
7. There Are Four Flu Types
What everyone refers to as “the flu” is a set of similar illnesses. These illnesses are all caused by varying types of influenza viruses. As such, they cause similar symptoms in infected people.
The two most common flu types are type A and type B. These are the types that commonly cause annual epidemics.
Type A flu is the most severe form. It’s the strain responsible for most flu-associated deaths. Type B is milder, but can still make a person very ill.
Type C influenza is the least common human strain. It infects significantly fewer people than types A or B and causes much milder illness.
The last type, Type D, doesn’t appear in humans. This flu strain is only found in cattle, so it isn’t usually a cause for concern during flu season.
What signs of the flu are there?
- Body pains
- Feeling drained or worn out
- Vomiting or diarrhea usually only in kids
- Throat pain
- Runny or congested nose (congestion)
When is influenza season?
The Northern Hemisphere’s which includes the United States, flu season, during which flu cases sharply increase, lasts from October through May. During December and February is often when the most incidents occur.
Why does the flu occur?
Flu is brought on by the influenza virus. The three most prevalent forms of influenza that affect people are A, B, and C. Seasonal influenza A and B both exist. The majority of individuals experience more severe symptoms throughout the winter.
Influenza C doesn’t have severe symptoms and isn’t seasonal; it affects around the same number of people all year long. The flu is highly contagious, it spreads from person to person. They spread the virus to one to two more people for each person who contracts it.
How is the flu transmitted?
Direct or indirect contact with an infected person can spread the influenza virus. From a nearby person talking, sneezing, or coughing. Droplets may land on your hands or go through the air and enter your mouth or nose. After that, the flu spreads to your lungs.
By touching your face, nose, mouth, or eyes after coming into contact with a surface that has been exposed to the flu virus. This includes objects like desks, computers, phones, and doorknobs. By contacting your face, nose, mouth, or eyes after contacting the hands or face of someone who is ill with the flu.
By taking note of your symptoms and examining a sample of nasal mucus, your doctor can determine whether you have the flu. Your doctor can identify the flu from your list of symptoms and a sample of nasal mucus by looking at it. Findings may be available right away, or your doctor may send the sample to a lab, where they will be available in a day or two.
How is influenza treated?
Antiviral drugs can be used by healthcare professionals in some situations to treat the flu. Antivirals can shorten the length of your illness and lower your risk of developing a serious disease. Many people are able to treat the flu without using prescription drugs.
Managing the flu symptoms
- Use over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and other treatments to treat flu symptoms at home.
- Consuming liquids, such as broth or water, to help prevent dehydration.
- Obtaining sufficient sleep/rest.
- Aching muscles can be soothed by using heat packs or hot water bottles.
- A runny or stuffy nose can be relieved by using spray or oral decongestants such phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine.
- The removal of mucus from your lungs is made simpler by the use of expectorants like guaifenesin.
- Acetaminophen Tylenol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce fever and ease headache and body pains.
Note: Check with your provider before using any OTCs as not everyone should take them. It’s also a good idea to confirm that taking certain medications with or without supplements is safe.
Getting the flu shot annually is the most effective approach to avoid getting the flu. The immune system is trained by vaccinations to spot diseases and fight them off before you become ill. You should get vaccinated every year since the influenza virus might alter somewhat from year to year.
Other measures to lower your chances of contracting the flu include frequently washing your hands in soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you are unable to wash your hands with soap and water.
When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose. Instead of using your bare hand to cough or sneeze, use your elbow or a tissue. If you or a close friend or family member has the flu or any contagious illness, stay away from other people.
If you’re sick and can’t avoid being around people, think about wearing a mask. Also, refrain from touching your face, eyes, nose, or mouth, and don’t share food or eating utensils with others.
When should you see a doctor?
In order for antiviral medications to be most successful if your doctor prescribes them, it’s critical to get tested as soon as you suspect you have the flu. If you have flu symptoms plus an underlying condition that puts you at a higher risk for developing a serious illness, speak with a healthcare physician straight away.
If your symptoms continue to worsen after seven to ten days, if you have a fever that lasts more than three days, or if you’re pregnant and experiencing flu-like symptoms, consult your doctor.
Every year, the influenza (flu) virus spreads widely and injures many people. The best approaches to lower flu cases and fatalities are immunization and practicing preventative measures for those who are vulnerable to complications from the illness.
Everyone who wants to safeguard themselves against the flu and its effects should get vaccinated against it starting at age six months. To prevent the flu from spreading, persons who live or work with those who are susceptible to significant complications should also get vaccinated.
Being proactive is a healthy habit for all of us to adopt because the flu virus can be fatal, especially if it is not treated appropriately. Always take precautions, especially now that the pandemic is still ongoing. To ensure our health and wellbeing, we must take preventive action.