Influenza, most often referred to as the flu is caused by the influenza virus. The main three types of the virus that infects humans are type A, type B and type C. They present high fever, sore throat, muscle pain and joint pain, runny noseand cough that may last for more than two weeks. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Influenza produces a yearly outbreak manifesting around winter and claiming many lives.

Influenza Virus

The virus is of spherical or filamentous shape enclosed by an envelope, on their envelope mainly two structures which impart their antigenicity (ability to elicit an immune response), hemagglutinin which helps in the attachment to cell and neuraminidase which aids in cell penetration. There are 16 subtypes of this hemagglutinin antigen and 9 subtypes of neuraminidase antigen the combination of which gives the virus their individuality.

Antigenic Shift and Drift

Given their ability to assort and change themselves gives rise to two phenomena antigen shift and antigen drift, antigen shift which mainly causes the pandemic may occur infrequently and results due to assortment of their genetic material and antigen drift responsible for causing epidemics are from small mutations in their genes, because of their variability in their antigen structure the body almost all the time comes in contact with a new type of influenza against which the body has to elicit a different response leaving enough time for the virus to cause the necessary effect in susceptible individuals.

Flu Shot

Due to this variation the flu shot is generated every year and people living in countries prone to this should make sure they get their flu shot every year. This can be carried out in a school setting where a medical camp can be employed to give the children their flu shot or in office flu shots.

How Is the Virus Transmitted?

They are spread by direct contact, the mucus when sneezing enters mouth, eyes or nose of another person or any object that is contaminated with the virus comes in contact with another person who is not infected, and another way is when someone inhales the virus containing droplets from the air.

Prevention

First and foremost is self-hygiene, since these particles may be transmitted from surfaces, objects that may likely come in contact with the infected person has to be disinfected, when you have touched a surface likely to be contaminated you should avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and wash hands thoroughly with soap.

The ones who are sick should make sure they are wearing a mask and abstain from going to work, school or travelling anywhere,

Vaccination is recommended in high risk groups like elderly, pregnant mothers and children, because these people tend to be severely affected by the virus but the general public may take these as well. Vaccine is the introduction of a dead or weakened virus so the body can prepare itself so when the real virus attacks the body is much faster at eliminating them

Treatment

In termsof treatment, patients are advised to drink lots of fluids and are advised to take acetaminophen for fever and muscle ache and also antivirals are given to combat the virus.

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