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Influenza

aka Flu

Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract.

Symptoms – Characterized by a rapid onset of fever, chills, achy muscles, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, and fatigue. (Fever may not be present in a Common Cold)

Cause – The flu is caused by a viral infection. The three main types are influenza A, B, and C, but there are many subtypes of these three. The virus is contagious and spreads by nasal and oral secretions.

Diagnosis – Observation of the aforementioned symptoms and physical examination which may include chest x-rays, blood tests, or sputum culture for proper diagnosis. A lab test of cerebral spinal fluid may be necessary to rule out meningitis.

Treatment – A yearly influenza vaccination is recommended for older (65 or older) persons, healthcare workers, or those with heart of lung disease (not all strains are preventable through vaccines and the vaccine has been linked to Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome). Emphasis is placed on preventing the spread of the virus. Care must be taken to wash hands, especially after blowing nose, avoid sharing drinking glasses, and avoid crowds during flu season.

Flu will usually run its course and symptoms will disappear within 2 weeks. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, decongestants, cough medicines, or analgesics to relieve aches may be used. Aspirin should NOT be used to treat this or any viral infection. A physician may prescribe amantadine or rimantadine early in the course of the disease to fight the infection. Home care includes inhaling steam from a humidifier or hot shower to relieve nasal congestion, lozenges for sore throat and/or cough, warm compresses for achy muscles and joints, and plenty of rest and fluids.