What Causes the Flu?


Do you want to avoid getting the flu? You can start off by learning what causes it. The flu differs from a cold in so many ways. While over one hundred various viruses can cause a cold, only three influenza virus types can cause the flu. These are types A, B, and C. Types A and B are prone to causing large seasonal outbreaks while type C is typically known for causing mild respiratory symptoms. The flu vaccine can help shield you from getting influenza virus types A and B, but there’s no immunization for influenza virus type C. Flu viruses of type A are found in many animals such as pigs, ducks, whales, chickens, horses, and seals whereas type B viruses affect people only

How it spreads

The flu is a disease that is highly contagious. When someone with flu talks, coughs or sneezes, then the flu viruses travel through the air in the form of droplets. You can inhale these germs directly, get them from kissing or pick them up from objects such as computer keyboards, television remotes, doorknobs, silverware, handles or phones and later transfer them to your mouth, nose or eyes.

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Individuals with the flu virus are likely contagious from a day before symptoms first appear to around five days after symptoms begin. Sometimes, individuals are contagious for as long as ten days after symptoms first appear. Persons with a weak immune system and children may be contagious for a longer time than adults.

Influenza viruses are constantly changing, and new viruses are appearing on a regular basis. If you already had the flu in the past, then your body must have made antibodies to fight that specific strain of the virus. If you experience future viruses that are similar to those you encountered before (either by vaccination or having the disease), then there are chances that the antibodies mentioned above will prevent infection or lessen its severity. However, antibodies that work against influenza viruses that you’ve encountered in the past cannot protect you from new subtypes of influenza that can be different (immunologically) from what you had in the past.

Common risk factors

The factors listed below may increase your chances of developing the flu or its complications:

  • Pregnancy. Expectant mothers are more likely to get complications caused by influenza, especially in the second and third trimesters. This is also the case with women who are two weeks postpartum
  • Age. Older adults and young children are prone to getting seasonal influenza
  • Obesity. If your BMI is forty or above, then you have an increased risk of developing influenza-related complications.
  • Chronic illnesses. Such chronic conditions as heart problems, diabetes, or asthma may increase your chances of developing complications from the flu.
  • Living conditions. Individuals residing in facilities with many people like military barracks or nursing homes are more likely to develop the flu
  • Weakened immune system. HIV/AIDS, corticosteroids, anti-rejection drugs, and cancer treatments can weaken your immune system. This makes you susceptible to catching influenza as well as the related complications

When to see your doctor

Most people who get influenza can treat themselves using home remedies and often do not need to see a physician. Consult your doctor instantly if you have symptoms of the flu and are at risk of complications. You may reduce the span of your illness and help prevent severe problems if you take antiviral drugs within the forty-eight hours after you notice the first symptoms.

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