In order to understand what the flu does, you first have to learn about the differences between bacteria and viruses. Both of these minute germs, bacteria and viruses, are able to invade the body and cause specific types of symptoms based on the reaction the body has to the changes the germ makes. In the last 50 years scientists have been able to combat the growth of bacteria through the manufacture and production of antibiotics. These antibiotics were once thought to make an impact on individuals who also suffered from viral infections, but today researchers and doctors know that taking antibiotics when an individual has a viral infection only increases the chance that they will develop a bacterial infection. (1,2)
The flu is an illness which is caused by a virus. This virus resides and multiplies in the back of the throat. Although the mechanism of transmission and the way the virus grows are the identical, the flu is not the same as the common cold. This is because the viruses are different. The common cold will have milder, yet similar, symptoms to the flu and cold is less likely to cause serious complications.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by a virus and can cause mild to severe effects in the body. Sometimes the illness can be fatal. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the best way to prevent getting seasonal flu is to get a vaccination each and every year. According to the CDC statistics, between five and 20% of the population gets the flu on an annual basis and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized. Each year approximately 360 people die from flu related causes. The majority of these individuals who suffer mortality are children, older individuals and people who have health conditions which negatively impact their immune system, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease. (3)
Fortunately, research continues to try to identify the methods of transmission and the growth process of the virus inside the body. New information is reaching the public through media coverage about the types of different natural products which can be used in order to prevent or treat the symptoms of flu.
Individuals who have the flu will suffer from high fevers, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Other symptoms, such as stomach aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, can also occur are more common in children than in adults. Individuals who suffer from a severe form of the disease can also suffer from complications including bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and dehydration.
The flu gets its name from the virus which causes the illness, influenza. These respiratory diseases are caused by influenza A. or influenza B. viruses and are frequently more active in the winter and early spring. Scientists recognize a pattern of activity and pinpoint other means of prevention and treatment based on the activities of individuals. For instance, recent research has indicated that individuals who receive high amounts of vitamin D through sunshine exposure during the winter and early spring will significantly reduce their risk of contracting the influence of virus even if exposed. (4,5,6)
Although the symptoms of a cold and the flu are similar the symptoms of the flu are much worse. While a cold may make you feel dragged down, the flu will make it almost impossible for you to get out of bed. There are more than a hundred different types of cold viruses that are known to researchers today and new strains of the flu evolve every few years. This is why the flu vaccine must change every few years in order to keep up with the new strains that are developing. Unfortunately, scientists are unable to anticipate the genetic mutations which the flu virus undergoes and must vaccinate individuals based on the influenza virus from the previous year’s season.
The flu virus is spread from person to person through respiratory secretions. This means that any fluid which comes from the mouth or nose through a sneeze or cough can transmit the influenza virus to another person. Because of the ease of transmission individuals who are a part of day care facilities, school classrooms, college dormitories, nursing homes and offices are at higher risk for contracting the illness when someone in their midst also has it.
Once an individual coughs into their hands, sneezes onto a doorknob or uses a telephone the influenza virus can be transmitted to the next person. Symptoms usually develop one to four days after the individual has becoming infected with the virus. The infection happens through hand to nose or mouth contact. In other words, if you touch a door handle which has the flu virus and then rub your eyes or brush your nose you are inoculating yourself with the influenza virus.
For most people the flu virus lasts approximately a week, sometimes two. Treatment is supportive. In other words, individuals will find that their body heals on its own when given enough fluids, rest and support through fever reduction and proper nutrition. The old wives tale of feed a cold, starve a fever has no basis in nutrition. The body requires adequate amounts of calories, vitamins and minerals in order to be able to fight off the influenza virus.
(1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work
(2) MayoClinic.com: Antibiotics: Misuse Puts You and Others At Risk
(3) Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) and Flu Vaccine
(4) The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Randomized Trial of Vtiamin D Supplementation to Prevent Seasonal Influenza A in Schoolchildren
(5) Mercola.com: The vitamin Which Can Cut Your Flu Risk Nearly In Half
(6) The Vitamin D Council: H1N1 Flu and Vitamin D