Boost your immunity, steer clear of influenza

Boost your immunity, steer clear of influenza

What is influenza?

Influenza (flu) is a highly infectious disease caused by influenza viruses that attack the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract. Currently, there are three types of influenza virus: A, B and C. Influenza A and B viruses cause virtually all of the clinical illness while influenza C infections are usually mild.

Influenza occurs every year mainly during the winter months but in tropical countries like India, the virus could circulate around the year.

What is the difference between a common cold and influenza?

Common cold and influenza are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract and are contracted in much the same way. Although influenza and common cold share some similar symptoms such as cough, headache and chest discomfort, they are very different illnesses. Influenza is a more severe infection of the respiratory tract and can lead to serious health problems. Usually, complications from colds are relatively minor, but a severe case of influenza can lead to a life-threatening illness such as pneumonia.

How does influenza spread?

The influenza virus spreads from person to person through respiratory secretions and typically sweeps through large groups of people who spend time in close contact, such as in daycare facilities, school classrooms, college dormitories, offices, and nursing homes.
Influenza can spread in a number of ways. If a person inhales droplets in the air that contain the flu virus or makes direct contact with respiratory secretions he can get infected.

Similarly, handling items contaminated by an infected person and then touching or rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth can also lead to an infection. This is why frequent and thorough hand washing and maintaining personal hygiene are important ways of limiting the spread of influenza.

Who is at the greatest risk for influenza complications?

While anyone can get influenza, infants, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and HIV/AIDS are at highest risk of influenza complications. More importantly, ill people should make sure that they cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze and do not go to work to prevent the spread of the virus.

A person can also reduce the risk of catching the virus by washing his hands frequently to prevent the spread of germs. Eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep also play a part in preventing influenza since such efforts help boost the body’s immune system.

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