Influenza is a viral infectious disease. The influenza virus of the family Myxovirus, mainly attacks the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat, bronchi) and sometimes the lungs. Viruses mutate from one year to another and are extremely contagious: they spread around the world in the form of sometimes dramatic epidemics (Spanish flu in 1918 and 1919 with 40 million dead, Asian flu in 1957 and flu Hong Kong in 1968).
Risks and consequences of influenza
Flu, mild in healthy subjects, can be fatal in younger or older people and / or patients (diabetes, cancer, kidney or heart problems). Each year, 5-15% of the population are affected during routine epidemics, with significant economic impact (sick leave, lower productivity ...) and 5 million serious cases and 250 000 to 500 000 deaths. Deaths occur mainly in people over 65 years.
Flu Causes and mechanisms
The influenza virus circulating nowadays and cause human epidemics are of two types: A and B. These viruses are genetically programmed to be able to mutate very easily, with minor modifications but imposing reformulate the vaccine each year..
These flu viruses are spread easily from one person to another by air via the microdroplets and particles expelled during coughing or sneezing. The virus enters through the mouth and nose and infects the body.
High population concentrations, dry and cold weather are conditions favorable to the spread of the flu.
Symptoms and signs of flu
The first symptoms appear several days after infection (1-4 days), but the patient is already contagious before symptoms appear. The flu lasts about a week and is characterized by a strong sudden fever, signs of soreness and muscle pain, headache and malaise. Dry cough, sore throat, and rhinitis (runny nose) directed towards diagnosis, especially as the environment is also achieved.
Symptoms resolve spontaneously or with symptomatic treatment in 1 to 2 weeks.
In compromised patients, complications of influenza may occur in the form of bacterial infections, of extrapulmonary involvement (digestive disorders, meningitis ...) or even fatal malignant flu (acute respiratory failure).
With what should we be confused?
Seasonal flu is not to be confused with avian influenza or "bird flu" that affects the moment the birds. Avian influenza viruses are indeed unable to directly infect humans.
Also, do not confuse the flu, viral, with other bacterial infections. Antibiotics are in the case of the influenza viruses on completely ineffective.
Will it possible prevention?
Vaccination remains the main flu prevention means for limiting the spread of the epidemic and avoid complications.
All seniors and all those at high risk of complications should benefit as it reduces mortality from 70 to 80%. Influenza viruses are constantly changing, vaccines are adjusted each year by the global network of the World Health Organization.
The Insurance supports vaccination of people aged over 65 and patients, regardless of age, with the following chronic diseases:
- Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes;
- Disabling stroke;
- Severe chronic kidney disease and primitive nephrotic syndrome;
- Severe neurological and muscular disorders (including myopathy), severe epilepsy;
- Cystic fibrosis;
- Severe heart failure, serious arrhythmias, severe valvular heart disease, severe congenital heart disease;
- Severe chronic respiratory insufficiency;
- Severe primary immunodeficiency requiring prolonged treatment, infection with human immunodeficiency virus;
- Sickle cell anemia;
- Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
- Children and adolescents aged 6 months to 18 years, whose health condition requires prolonged treatment with acetylsalicylic acid (complicated Kawasaki syndrome and juvenile chronic arthritis).
When to consult?
In young adult and free of pathologies, evolution of influenza is usually favorable spontaneously or with symptomatic treatment with free access to the pharmacy. However, in case of influenza in a fragile person (young children, persons over 65, chronic illness ...), a quick reference is needed.
What does the doctor?
The doctor confirms the diagnosis on questioning and clinical examination. The epidemic context, as well as health bulletins progression of influenza help make the diagnosis of presumption.
In uncomplicated cases, no sampling or examination is required. Treatment is symptomatic, to reduce fever and relieve pain. Antibiotics are antibacterial agents no effect on viruses and are therefore not indicated in the treatment of influenza (except in cases of bacterial infection).
Antivirals can be useful in certain directions but do not replace the vaccine.
If severe, hospitalization may be necessary, sometimes resuscitation.
How to prepare for my next visit?
Any worsening or persistent signs beyond 7 days must consult a doctor. In all cases and to prevent contamination of those around, simple measures are to be adopted: cover your mouth when sneezing, blowing nose in disposable paper handkerchiefs, avoid shaking hands, kissing, frequently washing hands or disinfect their hands with hydroalcoholic solution and well wear a surgical-type mask.
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