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International Global Health Blog

Influenza

International Global Health


The common cold and flu are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse.

Influenza is a highly contagious airborne disease that occurs in seasonal epidemics and manifests as an acute febrile illness with variable degrees of systemic symptoms, ranging from mild fatigue to respiratory failure and death.

 

What is Influenza?

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs.

 

Symptoms

Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

 

Diagnosis

The most common is Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests (RIDTs). RIDTs work by detecting the parts of the virus (antigens) that stimulate an immune response. It can provide results within approximately 10-15 minutes, but are not as accurate as other flu tests. Therefore, you could still have the flu, even though your rapid test result is negative.

 

Other flu tests Is Rapid Molecular Assaysthat detect genetic material of the virus. Rapid molecular assays produce results in 15-20 minutes and are more accurate than RIDTs. In addition, there are several more-accurate and sensitive flu tests available that must be performed in specialized laboratories, such as those found in hospitals or state public health laboratories. All of these tests require that a health care provider swipe the inside of your nose or the back of your throat with a swab and then send the swab for testing. Results may take one hour or several hours

 

Treatment

If you get flu, antiviral drugs may be a treatment option. When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days. They can also  prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia

It is very important that flu antiviral drugs are started as soon as possible to treat hospitalized flu patients, people who are very sick with the flu but who do not need to be hospitalized, and people who are at high risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health if they develop flu symptoms. Although other people with mild illness who are not at high risk of flu complications may also be treated early with antiviral drugs by their doctor, most people who are otherwise healthy and get the flu do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.

 

Tips

The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. You can also prevent catching influenza by frequently washing your hands, keeping away from sick people or even using a mask to cover your coughs.

Stay Healthy!

 

References:

Medscape

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH)

World Health Organization (WHO)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)



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