The Debate About Influenza

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Winter is well underway; the first school semester is almost at its end and the mid-year vacation in soon approaching. At this time of year, we normally fear any possible viral infection; nowadays especially with the spread of coronavirus variants. It is then crucial that we take a closer look at what Influenza—commonly known as the flu—really is, and how we can protect ourselves from it during the vacation without panic or fear.

What is Influenza?

Influenza is a viral infection that mainly affects the nose, throat, bronchi and, occasionally, lungs. Infection is characterized by sudden onset of high fever, aching muscles, headache and severe malaise, dry cough, sore throat and runny nose.

The virus is transmitted easily from person to person mainly through sneezing or cough. The time from infection to illness, known as the incubation period, is about two days. Influenza can affect anybody in any age group and tends to spread rapidly in seasonal epidemics that peak during winter in temperate regions.

Most infected people recover within one to two weeks without requiring medical treatment. However, in the very young, the elderly, and those with other serious medical conditions, infection can lead to severe complications of the underlying condition, pneumonia and death. The highest risk of complications occurs among children younger than two years, adults aged sixty-five and above, and people of any age with certain medical conditions, such as chronic heart, lung, kidney, liver, blood or metabolic diseases or weakened immune systems.

Influenza viruses circulate in every part of the world; vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection or severe outcomes from the illness. Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications, and for people who live with or care for high-risk individuals. Furthermore, there are several antiviral drugs that effectively prevent and treat influenza.

What is a pandemic?

A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads around the world, and most people do not have immunity. Viruses that have caused past pandemics typically originated from animal influenza viruses. The severity of pandemics can change over time and differ by location or population.

People should seek medical care if they experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or if fever, and especially high fever, continues more than three days. Resting, drinking plenty of fluids and using a pain reliever for aches and pains, is adequate for recovery in most Influenza cases.

There is an ongoing pandemic with a new coronavirus,
read more
here.

How to protect ourselves during the vacation?

  1. Get vaccinated as soon as it is your turn.
  2. Avoid crowded settings and keep physical distancing.
  3. Wear a properly fitted mask when physical distancing is not possible and when ventilation is poor, particularly indoors.
  4. Clean your hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  5. Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.
  6. Improve airflow in living spaces by opening windows.
  7. Practice good health habits; including dieting, exercising, and sleeping well.
  8. Stay home if you are sick.

References

www.who.int
www.who.int/pandemic-influenza
www.cdc.gov/flu
www.who.int/protect-yourself


Credits: Banner Image/Freepik


Published in the PSC Newsletter, 1st School Semester 2010/2011.

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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