How Can the Flu Lead to Sepsis?

sepsis-infographic

Inforgraphic from wwww.carolinashealthcare.org

Influenza, known as the flu, is a serious viral infection that attacks the respiratory system. It does not affect the gastrointestinal tract, a common misconception. The flu, and viral infections like it, can lead to sepsis. Also known as blood poisoning, sepsis is a critical condition that can develop after a serious infection or injury.

Sepsis can develop after any infection anywhere in the body like urinary tract infections or pneumonia. If septic shock develops, your organs will shut down, and the end result is death. Early detection and treatment is necessary for survival. Currently, one third of people in the world who develop sepsis die. Survivors are often left with debilitating effects including organ dysfunctions, amputations, chronic pain and fatigue, or post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD.

According to The Sepsis Alliance, a charitable organization committed to battling sepsis, doctors have found that the number of sepsis cases do go up during flu season.

Influenza Types

There are many influenza types, other than the seasonal influenza type most of us are familiar with, and they are caused by three different viruses:

  • Type A – This viral infection affects both animals and people. It’s highly contagious and is best known for the flu epidemic of 1918 when millions of people died. The swine flu, avian flu, and H1N1 are also examples of Type A influenza.
  • Type B – This type of influenza does not cause epidemics and affects people only. While they are not as serious as Type A infections, they can lead to sepsis if untreated.
  • Type C – This is the mildest type of influenza and does not usually lead to sepsis.

The viruses that cause the flu also change from year to year, which is why the flu vaccine for seasonal influenza is different every year. This also makes the virus more dangerous, because even if you had the flu the season before, your body won’t recognize the changed virus, and you are susceptible to contracting it again. This is why it is necessary for you to get a flu vaccination each year.

Recognizing the Symptoms

It can be easy to confuse the common cold virus with the influenza virus since they are both respiratory illnesses. Here is how to tell the difference:

Common cold symptoms, while similar to those of the influenza virus, often develop slowly, while symptoms of the flu have a more rapid onset. Those symptoms include:

  • Chills and Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Stuffy or Runny Nose
  • Headache and Body Aches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea in Children

Preventing Sepsis

If you develop symptoms of the flu, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Depending upon your personal health history, he or she may want to prescribe an antiviral medication. If your symptoms get worse, go to the emergency room of your local hospital immediately. This includes if your condition improves and then worsens again.

Of course, the best way to prevent sepsis from developing from flu complications is to reduce your odds of contracting the flu in the first place. Here are some tips to avoid coming down with the flu:

  • Wash your hands often. You can come in contact with the flu virus simply by touching something an infected person touched.
  • Get a flu vaccination every year.
  • Encourage others to sneeze or cough into their elbow instead of their hand. That way the virus won’t be transmitted through common objects people touch with their hands.

The influenza virus is responsible for a growing number of sepsis cases worldwide. Be sure to follow these simple directives to avoid contracting it.

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