Seasonal flu or influenza is one of the most common viral diseases and, because it is very contagious, it affects millions of people each year. There are different strains of the influenza virus, some of them more serious than others, such as the 2010/2011 pandemic of H1N1, also called swine flu.
Influenza is very common and it is safe to say that almost everyone has either had seasonal flu at least once in life or will have it in the future.
The virus is mainly passed through tiny droplets that are coughed or sneezed out into the air. If those droplets are inhaled or if they land on a common object and the hand that touched those objects is then brought to the nose or mouth, the virus can be easily contracted.
The symptoms usually start a day or two after the virus is contracted and include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle weakness, sneezing, coughing, chest pain, nausea and loss of appetite. They usually last for a couple of days, during which time no specific medication is necessary and the patient is advised to rest, drink plenty of fluids and take vitamins, especially vitamin C.
A person who has flu can pass the virus to others one day before the symptoms start and several days after the symptoms have passed.
Prevention of influenza
Since there is no quick or effective cure for flu, the best way to stay safe from it is to observe measures regarding the prevention.
Flu immunization or vaccine is available for everyone but it is particularly recommended for persons who may develop serious complications from flu, such as elderly people, pregnant women, people with a chronic medical condition or people with compromised immune system, as well as those who live at nursing homes and similar facilities or spend a lot of time taking care of patients, such as caregivers, nurses and other medical staff.
If contact with a sick person cannot be avoided, certain flu medications, such as zanamivir, can help if administered up to 36 hours after contact. For oseltamivir, that period is 48 hours.
Children and teenagers are at higher risk of becoming ill with flu because they spend a lot of time in closed environment with a lot of other children, for example in school or kindergarten. They have to be instructed to take care of their personal hygiene, to frequently wash hands with warm water and soap and to avoid touching the nose and the mouth.