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.
Do You Have More Questions About Flu Types and Key Things to Know?
There are four distinct flu types, but only three that infect humans. Although the media likes to cause a panic, there’s a flu epidemic every year. Flu vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective but are our best defense against contracting the flu.
Do you have more questions about flu types and other key things to know? Check out our other blog posts. You’ll find a wealth of information on related topics.