Influenza is a disease caused by a virus. It affects the nose, throat, windpipe, bronchial tubes, and lungs. Of all the contagious diseases, influenza is one of the most easily spread from one person to another. There are many different kinds of influenza viruses; some cause only a mild illness, others can make a person extremely sick. A popular name for influenza is the flu. Mild cases used to be called grippe, but that name is not used much anymore.
Influenza is so contagious and the virus is so widely present that huge numbers of people can be affected at a time. In some epidemics, millions of people in one part of the country may get the disease within just a few weeks’ time. The two main viruses of influenza are called Influenza virus A and Influenza virus B.
Scientists who study contagious diseases are able to tell when and where epidemics of influenza can be expected to break out. For example, if there is an epidemic of influenza in Europe or Asia, these scientists can usually guess when the disease will strike the United States, and what part of the country will be hit hardest. They can also forecast fairly accurately how many people will catch the disease. In some epidemics, one out of every three or four children can be expected to get the disease. Luckily, in most cases, the condition is mild, especially if one has been vaccinated beforehand.
Epidemics of influenza don’t come every year. For some peculiar reason, the virus doesn’t attack many people one year but may hit extremely hard another year. But to be safe, people should do their best to prevent the disease each year by getting influenza vaccine injections. Since the condition comes most often in the winter and early spring, it is wise to get your flu shot late in the fall.
Magnified by an electron microscope, Asian influenza virus particles can be seen as round dots. The long lines are bacteria. These germs can be seen only with the aid of a powerful microscope that magnifies them tens of thousands of times.
Here are some of the symptoms of influenza:
1. Fever. In some cases it may go as high as 104°.
2. Marked aches and pains in the muscles and joints throughout the body, especially in the back and thighs and legs.
3. A runny nose with discharge of tubes as well.
4. Cough, with the bringing up of yellow or greenish mucus.
5. Weakness and tiredness with lack of pep and energy and a strong desire just to lie in bed and do nothing, not even to look at television.
6. Headache, and sometimes a sick- to-the-stomach feeling.
7. When the doctor has a blood count mucus from the throat and bronchial taken, it is usually found that there are fewer than the normal number of white blood cells.
The severe symptoms of influenza last for five to six days, but it takes another couple of weeks before the patient begins to feel normal again. During the time he or she is sick, the influenza patient must be kept away from friends and family members, because influenza is so terribly contagious. The disease is spread by coughing or sneezing. It is therefore important to teach everyone with the flu, and also those who just have a simple cold, to cover his mouth when he coughs and to cover his nose when he sneezes!
Most youngsters recover from influenza without complications, but here are things to do to make sure everything goes well:
1. Stay in bed until temperature has been normal for three days.
2. Aspirin, or a similar medicine, should be taken to relieve the aches and pains, and to help bring down the temperature to normal.
3. Large amounts of water, fruit juices, and other liquids should be taken. This will help to flush the poison from the influenza virus out of the body and will aid in getting rid of the fever.
4. Room temperature should be comfortably warm and the air in the bedroom should be moist. This will help the patient to bring up the mucus when he coughs.
5. If coughing is severe, a cough medicine is given.
6. In order to prevent complications like an ear infection or pneumonia, antibiotic medicines are given. Unfortunately, the antibiotics aren’t very effective in killing the influenza virus.
Of course, it is much smarter to prevent influenza than it is to cure it once it has infected a child. To do this, doctors recommend that children be given influenza vaccine. The vaccine should be given a month or two before the epidemic is expected to strike. It would be nice if the vaccine always worked, but it is thought that it protects against influenza in only about seven out of ten people who take the shots. But the three who get influenza anyway, even though they received the vaccine, will probably get mild cases.
Children who are allergic to eggs cannot be given flu vaccine, because the vaccine is manufactured by growing it in chicken eggs. Therefore, if they were given the vaccine, they would get an allergic reaction. Many doctors think it is wise to keep children who have not received the vaccine, because of their allergy, home from school during an influenza epidemic.
Influenza vaccine has proved to be effective In protecting children from the disease. To prepare vaccine, viruses are injected into chicken eggs that are placed in incubators to promote viral growth. Eventually, the virus is removed from the eggs and processed to yield vaccine.