Influenza: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

How do you know if you have the flu? Do I need to be vaccinated? And what is the most effective way to treat a disease? Before the start of the epidemic season, we understand all these issues together with the candidate of medical sciences

Tatyana Rumyantseva

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Influenza has an acute onset: within a few hours the patient develops a fever, cough (more often dry), headache, pain in muscles and joints, weakness, sore throat and runny nose. Some of these symptoms may not exist, but high fever and acute onset of the disease are classic signs of the disease. In other words, if you felt that you were sick within a few days, and then still “fell off”, then this is not flu, but SARS.

Most people recover within one week without any treatment.

But at risk, influenza can cause serious consequences and death.

The greatest danger in connection with the development of complications, the flu is for:

  1. children under two years old;
  2. elderly people over 65 years old;
  3. pregnant women;
  4. people of any age with chronic diseases of the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, blood, as well as with diabetes;
  5. immunocompromised patients (e.g. HIV-infected).

Influenza: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

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Virus well transmitted by airborne droplets, and therefore quickly spreads to schools, kindergartens, offices and other crowded places. Most often, it spreads when a sick person coughs / sneezes, but can also be transmitted by shaking hands (for example, if a sick person covers his mouth with a palm when coughing, and a healthy person greets him by the hand and then scratches his nose with this hand). Therefore, the main measures to prevent the spread of the virus are wearing a mask (a sick person, not a healthy person) and regular hand washing with soap.

The incubation period (the period of time from contact with a sick person until the onset of signs of the disease) is 2 days.

Seasonal influenza epidemics most often recorded from December to March with peak activity in different months (in one year, the peak incidence may occur in December, in another - in February).

Every year 5-10% of adults and 20-30% of children get the flu. Most are able to cope with the disease, but the flu gets a severe course in 3-5 million people annually, which leads to 250-500 thousand deaths per year.

Influenza: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

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  1. Avoid contact with sick people.
  2. Do not go to work if you feel unwell.

  3. After the illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after any manifestations of the disease have ended.
  4. If you get sick, avoid contact with other people whenever possible.
  5. Be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief (disposable paper) when sneezing and coughing.
  6. Wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible. If there is no way to wash your hands, use gel antiseptics (sanitizers).

  7. Do not touch the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially when visiting public places.

But the most effective method of prevention is vaccination. Flu vaccination is effective and safe; It has been used in many countries for over 60 years. Vaccination of the adult population will help to avoid illness, loss of work and infection of loved ones. But there are populations for which vaccination is absolutely necessary because of the risk of complications or the extremely high risk of infection.

Influenza: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

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  1. pregnant women at any gestational age;
  2. children from 6 months to 5 years old;
  3. elderly people (aged 65 and over );
  4. patients with chronic diseases;
  5. health workers.

Vaccination against influenza

is included in the National Calendar of Preventive Vaccinations of Russia by order No. 51 dated January 31, 2011.

There are 3 types of influenza virus: A, B and C.

Type A viruses are further classified into subtypes depending on combinations of surface proteins. Among the variety of influenza viruses, the most common viruses are the subtypes A (H1N1) and A (H3N2). Knowing the dominant virus types / subtypes is relevant for selecting a vaccine before the onset of an influenza epidemic.

It is most effective to be vaccinated with the vaccine that protects against the types of virus whose circulation is expected in the coming season. Every fall, WHO and Rospotrebnadzor publish information on the types of virus that are expected to dominate in the coming winter.

Prior to this, in February, WHO publishes a list of virus types that should be included in vaccines in development next year.

Influenza: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

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  1. Age less than 6 months.
  2. Severe allergic reactions to previous administration of the vaccine or to any of its ingredients (if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any drug or food product, be sure to consult your doctor when choosing a vaccine) .
  3. In the acute stage of any disease, vaccination should be postponed until recovery, but not be canceled.

If you have a chronic illness, consult your doctor about the possibility of vaccination.

Please note that pregnancy and lactation are not a contraindication to vaccination. Modern vaccines do not contain viruses that can harm the fetus during pregnancy or the baby during lactation. On the contrary, the protection of the mother is important in order to avoid a serious illness during pregnancy or infection of the newborn.

Influenza: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

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В in most cases, specific treatment is not required. If you have the flu, it is extremely important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration (and in many cases this is the main treatment). Other measures include the use of drugs that relieve symptoms of the disease (antipyretic drugs, vasoconstrictor drops / nasal sprays, etc.).

There are antiviral drugs (amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir), but they should be taken only as directed by a doctor. Efficiency is achieved at the beginning of treatment in the first 48 hours from the onset of disease symptoms.

It is worth remembering that the resistance of the influenza virus to these drugs already exists, and therefore it is better to deal with the prevention of the disease than with its treatment.

No “immunostimulants” and “immunomodulators” are relevant to the treatment of influenza. Neither their effectiveness nor their safety has been proven in adequate studies.

Antibiotics should also not be used in the treatment of uncomplicated influenza (since antibiotics fight bacteria, not viruses).

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