Influenza, also known as “The common cold,” has a long history of infectious outbursts. Symptoms of the virus are described in texts as early as 2,400 years ago. The first real evidence of the virus comes about in 1580 – it starts in Russia and sweeps through to Western Europe and Africa. In Rome it killed over 8,000 and almost destroyed several Spanish cities.
One famous breakout of the influenza virus happened in 1918 and lasted to 1919. Known as the Spanish Flu, people often felt fine during the day and succumbed to their illness after nightfall. The total mortality rate is unknown but it’s estimated that 25 million people died in the first 25 weeks, killing roughly 5% of the world’s population.
Another major outbreak wouldn’t happen again until early 1956 starting in China. The infection spread to Hong Kong and then the United States where about 69,800 people were killed by it. The worldwide death toll from the Asian Flu is estimated to be around 1 to 4 million deaths, the WHO settled on around 2 million for official records. About ten years later another outbreak occurred in early 1968 in Hong Kong. The first case reached the United States in early September with the virus in full swing by December of 1968, most deaths happened during this period. Most recently, a strain of H1N1 payed a visit to the United States. In early 2009 the the H1N1 virus broke out with the first confirmed case on April 15, and by the 21st of April, scientists were hard at work on a vaccine. Five days later the United States declared H1N1 a public health emergency. By June of that year, over 18,000 cases were reported of the virus in the U.S.
What is the Influenza virus?
Influenza (the common cold) is an infectious disease caused by an influenza virus. It is very contagious and can vary from mild to severe. The symptoms of influenza include fever, coughing, sneezing, headache, runny nose, muscle pains and a sore throat. Symptoms show up in the first two days usually and last about one week, though the cough can stick around for up to two weeks. Different strains of the virus vary between Influenza types A, B, and C. Influenza A is common – it can be found in wild aquatic birds and can be devastating if it infects animal or human populations. It is a very virulent pathogen to humans. Type B almost only infects humans, and is less common the Influenza type A. Less diverse than type A, influenza B has a slower mutation rate causing an immunity to it at an early age. However, it still mutates at a fast enough pace for humans to never be fully immune. Type C is the least common of the three. It infects humans, dogs, and pigs sometimes causing severe outbreaks. Most of the time though, it only causes minor symptoms in children.
The life cycle of an Influenza virus cell is short but effective. Gaining entry to the body through the respiratory system, it attaches to cells and delivers the virus to the nucleus. From there it can change the operation of the cell to copy itself and reproduce to infect more cells of the host. Your immune system then responds by producing antibodies and sending them to destroy the virus. If all goes well your body will now be immune to that particular strain of influenza, and you’ll feel much better! Your doctor can explain this and more to you on your next visit to The Pediatric Center.
What is the immunization and how does it work?
In 1931 alongside colleagues at Vanderbilt University , Ernest William Goodpasture noted the viral growth of influenza in the embryonic eggs of hens. This work led to the first experimental vaccines. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that the first approved vaccines were developed by the U.S. military and used throughout the Second World War. After that, flu shots were developed to protect humans from influenza and a new vaccine is created to up to twice per year. This is due to the virus mutating so quickly and creating new strains. In general, the protection from these vaccines received is modest to high. Vaccinating children may protect them and people around them and out of those who are vaccinated, about 5-10% contract a fever.
When and why you should get an immunization
Because influenza has the potential to require hospitalization and can even be fatal, in the United States, the C.D.C. recommends “everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.” Moreover, the importance of vaccinations is stressed for those who are at a greater risk of developing potentially fatal complications from influenza. Among the people who are at greater risk; those with pre-existing medical conditions, small children, and the elderly are noteworthy. The C.D.C. reports that up to as many as 90% of flu related deaths in the United States have occurred in people 65 years and older. The best way to reduce your chances of getting the flu and it spreading to others is with an annual flu vaccine. The influenza vaccine, both available in injectable or nasal spray form, are appropriate measures in preventing the spread of the flu.
What steps can you take to prevent getting the flu?
- Wash your hands often. Proper hand washing will help to keep you from getting infected after touching or handling objects which have been previously touched or handled by somebody who is sick. Use a good anti-bacterial soap and warm water and scrub your hands, wrists, and under your fingernails for at least 30 seconds.
- If you are a senior, you are more susceptible to complications if you are infected with the flu. During flu season, using a disposable face mask is a great way for you to help keep yourself safe from contracting the virus. These masks are inexpensive and are often given away free of charge in health clinics, hospitals, and doctor’s offices at the front counter.
- Keep your children home when they are sick. Children have an uncanny ability to spread the flu at school and then get re-infected after the virus has mutated and they are exposed to it. Talk to your physician at The Pediatric Center for more information about keeping your kids healthy.
- Get you and your kids vaccinated against the season’s most common flu strains. As stated above, the influenza inoculation is very effective at keeping you from getting sick. Most health insurance policies available today do not require you to make a co-payment for this preventative procedure. The flu shot is available at most clinics, hospitals, and even neighborhood pharmacies and drug stores.
The Pediatric Center in Idaho Falls is your best source of information about the flu
Call The Pediatric Center today to schedule a flu vaccination for your children. We are available to answer any questions you may have about the vaccine concerning its safety, effectiveness, and possible side-effects. We take your kid’s health seriously and we want them to be healthy, happy, and virus free this flu season.