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Flu – symptoms, prevention, causes, treatment and more

The influenza virus was recorded as far back as 2,400 years ago.

May 5, 2019 |
10 min read

When the flu symptoms appear, they can leave the individual bedridden for days, and in some cases, hospital treatment might be required, especially if symptoms worsen. The Influenza Virus or the Flu Virus as it is commonly known affects everyone at least once in their lifetime.

It is often during the winter when the virus and symptoms are most common although it can cause problems at any time of the year. It spreads quickly among people, and that gives even more of a reason to take the right flu prevention measures.

History of the influenza virus

The influenza virus was recorded as far back as 2,400 years ago, but the first real records of the flu virus and symptoms date back to 1580.

This outbreak took place in Russia, but soon it spread to Europe, with the flu killing thousands of people in Spain and Italy.

The flu virus continued to cause pandemics throughout the 17th and 18th century, again killing thousands. In its long history, the most lethal outbreak was in 1918 where it is believed that almost 100 million people died from complications of flu.

Throughout time, the disease has killed many people, and even to this day, it can still cause problems because symptoms can worse very quickly.

However, in centuries gone by, a lack of cleanliness and medical treatment made it more likely for the virus to cause problems.

What is the flu virus?

Influenza is known as the flu, and it is an infectious disease that causes terrible symptoms. The cause of it is the influenza virus, and it is presented in the form of many symptoms. (1)

These can vary between individuals in type and severity, but the signs are relatively consistent. After an individual has come into contact with the virus, the flu symptoms appear after 48 hours.

Four different types of the virus can affect humans, and all come with similar symptoms. These are Type A, Type B, Type C, and Type D although type D has not become a problem for humans yet. Stomach flu is not classified around the aforementioned types of the disease.

Each year, the flu virus spreads around the world. These annual outbreaks cause millions of cases of severe illness and death. The flu symptoms, though harmless for most, can lead to death.

Commonly, it is known in most of the world to be a winter disease also known as flu season, but in some countries, an outbreak can occur at any time.

The symptoms of the flu virus

The symptoms are known to appear very quickly. Once the individual has come into contact with the virus, within two days, they present the the signs. The severity and complexity of flu can differ between individuals.

One of the first symptoms to appear is a sudden fever. This is when an individual has a temperature of 38c or more, and that can cause hallucinations and even convulsions.

It can leave individuals feeling exhausted and aching in almost every part of their body. Some of the flu symptoms are similar to that of the common cold.

Therefore, people will have difficulty sleeping, a dry cough, sore throat, lack of appetite, headache, stomach pain or diarrhea and nausea.

In some instances, flu can become so severe that individuals have to go to the hospital for treatment. In children, the symptoms are similar to those seen in adults, but they can experience pain in the ear. (2)

What are the causes of flu?

When an individual who has the infection coughs or sneezes, the virus moves in droplets through the air. Once someone inhales the droplets, they then begin to show the signs of flu.

While someone can inhale the droplets directly, it is possible to catch the virus from touching objects that have been contaminated.

Before any symptoms appear, people are contagious for around 24 hours. The virus is continually evolving, and each flu season, new strains appear.

So for those who have had the virus in the past, they will be protected from that strain but not others. As different strains appear each year, it becomes difficult to prevent.

For those who have had it in the past, their body creates antibodies for that strain. However, those antibodies will not protect from other strains although they can lessen the severity.

Risk factors

Everyone feels extremely unwell when they have the flu. However, there are those who will have severe symptoms, and that means that there is an increase in the risk of it developing into something more serious.

Age is a significant factor when it comes to the virus and its symptoms. The elderly and the young are at risk and often it can hit the elderly quite severely where it can cause real problems.

Those who spend time in work environments where there are many people; it puts them more at risk of developing the flu virus.

While those who have a weakened immune system, as a result of cancer treatments or steroids are more likely to experience the flu and its symptoms. Chronic illnesses including the likes of diabetes, asthma and even heart problems can increase the risk of catching the virus.

Pregnancy and the flu virus

Women who are pregnant are increasingly likely to catch the influenza virus and develop complications.

This is particularly problematic should they find themselves in the second or third trimester. After giving birth, women are at risk of developing complications that are related to the flu virus for up to two weeks.

People who are obese and have a BMI of over 40 have an increased chance of experiencing further problems if they catch the flu virus. It could also lead to heart and respiratory problems.

The risk factors are significant, and that is why many people who fall into these categories are given a vaccine.

While this will not protect them from every strain, it will reduce their chances of catching it and having to deal with the symptoms that accompany it.

Complications caused by the flu virus

For most, the disease will remain apparent for a few days and up to a couple of weeks. In some cases, people will develop complications as a result of the virus.

While the flu does not cause harm in most, it can be life-threatening. While symptoms can present themselves in many ways, they can differ in severity.

Some of the complications can then lead to moderate complications such as ear infections or sinusitis. One serious complication is pneumonia. (3)

This can be caused by the virus or from co-infection with bacteria. The heart can become inflamed as a result of it. This is known as myocarditis while the brain, muscles, tissues, and organs can all be affected.

In some cases, the respiratory system can fail as well as the kidneys. Sepsis is also a dangerous complication, and this can be caused by the inflammatory response in the body as a way of dealing with some of the flu symptoms.

Along with this, those who suffer from medical problems have to be aware of possible complications. Those with asthma could experience attacks, and this who have heart disease could also find that their condition worsens.

So, when the virus takes hold, it is essential that individuals keep an eye on the symptoms to ensure that they spot the signs of any problems.

How you catch the flu virus

When people first experience the symptoms, they often wonder who they have caught the virus from. After all, they might not have knowingly been in contact with someone who has it.

Despite this, the virus can spread easily, and people cannot detect it. It can spread between people who are as much as 6 feet away.

Experts say that the virus is spread by droplets that are made when people sneeze, talk or cough. People can then inhale these droplets, or they can even land in the mouth.

It is also common for people to catch the flu by touching an infected surface. Once the virus has entered the body, it then begins to attack, and then the individual begins to show the signs and symptoms.

This is why many people believe that the best prevention is to ensure surfaces are clean. Despite this, once someone has come into contact with the virus, unless they are have had the strain before, they will begin to show signs shortly after.

Spread

The virus can be spread very quickly and very easily, and that is what makes its prevention so tricky.

Once someone has come into contact with the virus, they will then begin to develop symptoms. Once the illness starts, they are then contagious for around three to four days. (4)

This is where the virus can be passed around to others. For those adults who are healthy, they can infect others as much as one day before symptoms develop.

They can even infect people for up to seven days after they become ill. For those who have weak immune systems and the young, they can still be contagious for longer than seven days.

Once someone has caught the virus, they will then display signs around two days after. However, it can take as long as four days to appear.

At this point, it is easy for others to catch influenza even before the individual knows that they are unwell, yet before they have any symptoms.

Some people can be infected but show no signs or symptoms. At this time, they can still continue to pass on the virus.

How to naturally fight the flu virus

While the flu virus will hit people hard with a wide array of symptoms, it is possible to fight it naturally. The virus will have to run its course, and that means that the symptoms will remain until it has been eradicated.

Despite this, people who suffer from the disease should take plenty of rest as this can help to ease its symptoms. They are also advised to drink plenty of water, this will help to reduce the mucus.

Another one is that it causes problems like aching. This can be treated through the use of pain killers.

When the first symptoms appear, it is merely a case of managing them. While there is no cure or treatment, trying to fight it naturally is one way of easing it.

How to prevent its spread

The flu is not pleasant. For those who have suffered, then they will know that there is not a lot that can be done.

However, prevention is one of the best ways to ensure that you reduce the chances of catching it. First of all, vaccination is one way of protecting yourself. If you do this, then you can prevent yourself from passing it on to others.

As many believe that the flu virus is spread by coughs and sneezes, it is advised that those who have it should cover their mouth.

If you are aware of someone having the disease, then try not to touch your hand, eye or nose when around them. This can cause the virus to spread quickly, especially if it is on your hands.

Cleanliness can make a real difference when it comes to keeping the disease at bay.

Washing hands with warm, soapy water will ensure that those symptoms never appear and you can prevent yourself from catching it or spreading it.

Of course, if you know someone has it, then the best advice is to stay away as that will prevent you from catching the virus. If you spend time around them, then you are more than likely going to experience it in a few days.

While there is no immediate and guaranteed prevention, you can reduce your chances of ever catching the virus. Once the flu symptoms hit, there is no turning back.

When to see a doctor

In most cases, the symptoms will subside over a few days. In some cases, they can worsen, and this can lead to further problems.

So, if you are experiencing problems breathing or have chest pains, then it is time to see the doctor. These are severe and can indicate a problem such as asthma, pneumonia or heart disease.

Some of the most common are coughing and a sore throat. If these appear to worsen and don’t disappear, then it could mean that is now a sign of infection.

One of the last things that can worsen is the congestion. If this does not clear up then, it could be the sign of a sinus infection.

Preventative measures

When it comes to the flu virus, nobody can escape the virus or its symptoms. However, a good hygiene routine and vaccinations will ensure that you have put the best prevention measures in place.

This will mean that you reduce the chance of catching the virus and that means you won’t have to experience the terrible symptoms that come accompany it.

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