Influenza – commonly known as the flu – is an infectious virus which is often confused with the common cold because the symptoms are analogous; however, influenza causes fever, headaches and fatigue which aren’t associated with the common cold. It can also draw nausea and vomiting - particularly in younger children - but these symptoms are more specific to “stomach flu”. Let’s check to see what the causes of influenza are.
Influenza can be categorized into three specific types really - A, B and C. Type C is a little more passive than the other pair as it doesn’t promote any dangerous symptoms and poses no real threat to public-health. But types A and B do worry scientists and physicians as these strains are often associated with hospitalisation and mortality, and are the focus of the flu-jab vaccine every winter.
There is a need for a special flu jab vaccine every winter because the influenza virus has the ability to mutate, i.e. alter its make-up. This change is significant, as our immune systems aren’t able to fight the new strains straight away, so the body is susceptible to these throughout its lifetime.
Causes of Influenza
It’s important to understand what the causes of influenza are. It spreads from person to person essentially, directly or indirectly. You catch it directly by inhaling the droplets from the cough or a sneeze of an infected individual, or from simply talking or sitting too close to them. Your chances of acquiring it indirectly are also real, from bad hygienic practices, i.e. using the same objects - such as a towel or mug - as an infected individual.
The first time you are infected with any virus, your immune system produces antibodies which eventually eradicate it. However, when a “new” strain of influenza virus inflicts itself on you, the immune system commissions specific antibodies – which it acquired from a previous flu virus - to fight it off, but soon realizes they cannot cope with this new strain and your body becomes infected. In some instances, the resident antibodies are able to provide partial resistance to the new strain and manage to dilute its effects and symptoms.
Remember that the influenza virus can render you practically useless for days, and worse, you could end up hospitalised with pneumonia – or another such illness - if you do not care for it appropriately. It’s recommended – for people older than six months - to get the annual flu jab from your physician, as this pretty much guarantees your immunity from influenza; the vaccine protects you against the three most prevalent strains of that particular winter. The 2010-11 winter-flu vaccine protects against the H3N2 and the B viruses, as well as last year’s infamous H1N1 (swine flu) virus. Try to be alert to the causes of influenza this winter.