Influenza or more commonly known as the flu is a contagious viral disease, and is recorded as one of the deadliest pathogens in human history. This disease is the culprit responsible for the loss of 40 millions lives during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918-1920. Although there are other pandemics in history such as the Asiatic, Asian and Hong Kong Flu pandemics, the number of casualties was significantly lower at 1 million each.
Influenza is caused by the virus family of Orthomyxoviridae. The virus was first discovered in pigs by one Richard Schope in 1931. 2 years after, the virus was found and isolated from human subjects. After another 2 years, it was observed that the viruses were non-cellular in form. It was only in 1944 that the influenza vaccine finally came into the picture. The research behind it is based on the discovery that Influenza loses its virulence when cultured in fertilized chicken eggs. It has also been discovered that the virulence of Influenza is caused by the viral proteins hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, which are both located on the surface of the particle structure. It was discovered that there many subtypes or serotypes of Influenza. These serotypes are classified based on the response of these viral proteins to antibodies. Just like other viruses, the action of Influenza particles is the invasion and infection of healthy cells and reproducing the viral strands.
The common symptoms observed in people suffering from Influenza are fever, sore throat, severe headache, muscle pains, weakness and fatigue. In some cases, nausea and vomiting also occur. These two symptoms however are more common with children. The common symptoms of Influence resemble those of the common cold very closely; however, Influenza is a much more severe disease and should never be taken lightly. People suffering from Influenza are more likely to have secondary complications such as pneumonia, and can lead in some cases of death. Fortunately, these cases are by far only common to very small children, the elderly, and those with other medical conditions. In most cases, people are completely able to recover from Influenza and fully regain their health.
In the present day, flu shots are recommended at least once a year. However, having had regular shots is not enough to ensure that you won’t get infected. It’s also important to know more about the disease so that you can avoid it in the first place. Influence is transmitted when people sneeze. When people sneeze, saliva comes out of their mouth as an aerosol. Because of this, the virus becomes airborne. As such, contact with it will lead most likely to infection. Similarly, the disease may also be passed on by blood, or being in contact with other body fluids such as urine, and feces. The last two are in reference to other sources of the virus such as infected mammals and birds. Bird droppings, for example can easily be the source of infection when it dries up and is inhaled. Mammals can also spread the virus when secreting wastes. One practical way to protect yourself from possible infection is to regularly wash you hands and wear clean clothes.
By washing hands regularly washing your hands, you can reduce the risk of the disease entering your body even if you come in contact with infected fluids. On top of basic hygiene, clean clothes also prevent the spread of the disease from the clothes we wear. Influenza becomes deactivated when exposed to detergents and soaps. It’s logical to stay away from people who are sick. Likewise, people who acquire this sickness should also stay home. Lastly, people should avoid putting their hands in their eyes, mouth and ears. That way, the possibility of infection is also reduced.