Illness floating in the air...

Illness floating in the air...


Flu is an infection of your airways. It's caused by the flu virus. Flu is normally worse than a cold, and it can make you feel very ill. Flu stands for influenza. There are three types of influenza virus: A, B and C. Types A and B can make you very ill. Type A is the world's most common flu virus. It usually makes you more ill than type B. Type C isn't normally very serious.  Flu symptoms come on quickly and can make you feel ill.

Doctors diagnose flu by looking at your symptoms. They only test for a particular virus if they are monitoring a type of flu that could spread to lots of people. If you get the flu, it can make you feel very ill.
The flu virus lives in your nose, your throat and the air passages leading to your lungs. You usually get a fever, body aches, chills and a dry cough. The flu virus can also cause more serious problems, such as pneumonia.

When infected...
When you're infected with a virus, your immune system tries to fight it. If you've recovered from a virus before, your body will know how to deal with it in the future.
This means that you won't get ill if you come into contact with the same virus again. But the influenza virus changes all the time. This is called mutation. So you can catch the flu even if you've had it the year before. Flu spreads very easily from person to person. You can get it from people who cough, sneeze or talk near you. You can get the flu from someone while they are ill or a few days before they have any obvious symptoms.

Symptoms
Flu symptoms usually come on quickly. They can make you feel very ill.
They include:
* Fever
* Shivering
* A dry cough
* Muscle aches
* Headache
* Sore throat
* Feeling extremely tired.

Young children and older people may not have all of these symptoms. But they're more likely to become very ill.
Your doctor will probably decide whether you have flu based on your symptoms. Your doctor can find out for certain if you have flu by testing a sample of fluid from your nose or your blood. But most people won't need these tests.

Most people don't need to see a doctor if they have flu. The best thing to do is to stay at home, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Paracetamol can help with aches or fever.
However, you should see a doctor if you:
* Are elderly
* Are pregnant
* Have a medical condition (such as heart failure or asthma)
* Have a young child who has flu
* Have symptoms lasting more than a few days.
* hat treatments work for flu?
Most people recover from flu without needing treatment. But flu can cause serious problems in babies, older people or people with other medical problems. Drugs that fight the flu virus are called antiviral medicines. They're normally only for people who could become seriously ill from flu.

Most people need to take antiviral medicines within 48 hours of the first symptoms. Antiviral drugs may shorten the time your symptoms last, but only by about one day.
There hasn't been enough research to say whether antiviral drugs help prevent extra problems (complications), such as pneumonia. A flu vaccine may help you avoid flu.
Most people get better from the flu in about a week.

You should rest, drink plenty of fluids and take an over-the-counter medicine such as paracetamol. Children under 16 shouldn't take aspirin, because it can be dangerous.
You may still be tired and cough for a week or two after other symptoms go away.
For some people, flu is more serious. They get more serious problems (complications). This is more likely to happen if you are very young, older than 65, or have another medical problem, such as heart disease.

Flu complications include:
* Trouble breathing
* Pneumonia, caused by bacteria or a virus
* Ear infection
* Sinus infection
* Worsening of an existing problem such as diabetes or asthma.

If you get a complication caused by bacteria, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics won't affect flu. Should you grow very ill, you may need to be treated in hospital. Taking a flu vaccine can help prevent the flu.

Flu pandemics
Flu viruses change over time. This is called mutation. Normally, when your body fights off a virus, you don't get ill if you come into contact with the same virus again. Your immune system remembers how to kill the virus, and you don't get ill. But if the flu virus changes, your body doesn't know how to fight off the new strain.
When a new strain of flu that very few people are immune to makes people all over the world sick, it is called a pandemic.

Some scientists think that a kind of flu that affects birds could mutate or mix with human flu. If this happened, there's a chance it could cause a flu pandemic.  Just in case this happens, the government is stockpiling antiviral drugs. But it's difficult to know how well these would work against a new type of flu. When pandemics happen, scientists try to make vaccines for new types (strains) of flu as quickly as possible.

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