INFLUENZA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Influenza (also known as flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who are sick with flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue (tiredness)

  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

 

Flu Complications

Most people who get flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.

Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from flu, while pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from either influenza virus infection alone or from co-infection of flu virus and bacteria. Other possible serious complications triggered by flu can include inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis) tissues, and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure). Flu virus infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Flu also can make chronic medical problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have flu, and people with chronic heart disease may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu.

People at High Risk from Flu

Anyone can get sick with flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women and children younger than 5 years, but especially those younger than 2 years old.

What are the emergency warning signs of flu sickness?

In children

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing

  • Bluish skin color

  • Not drinking enough fluids

 

  • Not waking up or not interacting

  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

  • Fever with a rash

In adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

  • Sudden dizziness

  • Confusion

  • Severe or persistent vomiting

  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

  • Being unable to eat

  • Has trouble breathing

  • Has no tears when crying

  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

 

Influenza is an acute respiratory illness, caused by influenza A, B, and C viruses, that occurs in local outbreaks or seasonal epidemics. Clinical illness follows a short incubation period and presentation ranges from asymptomatic to fulminant, depending on the characteristics of both the virus and the individual host. Influenza A viruses can also cause sporadic infections or spread worldwide in a pandemic when novel strains emerge in the human population from an animal host. New approaches to influenza prevention and treatment for management of both seasonal influenza epidemics and pandemics are desirable. In this Seminar, we discuss the clinical presentation, transmission, diagnosis, management, and prevention of seasonal influenza infection. We also review the animal–human interface of influenza, with a focus on current pandemic threats.

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