Mention influenza and no one even takes notice. But mention H1N1 and people begin to sit up. H1N1, a type of influenza that claimed several lives over the last few years, is easily transmitted from one person to another through droplets in cough and sneezes.
One of the most common misconceptions is that influenza (or the flu) is the same as the common cold. Although both infections have similar characteristics such as headaches, a runny nose, cough and fever, influenza can have more serious effects such as aching muscles, severe fatigue, vomiting and feeling really ill.
What exactly is influenza and can it be avoided? Here are some fast facts:
- Influenza is an infection caused by a virus
- Once infected, it takes a few days before the symptoms appear
- Usually the virus attacks the throat, nose, bronchi and lungs
- The infection usually lasts for a week
- Symptoms include high fever, aching muscles, headache, cough, sore throat
- Transmission is through droplets. During the flu season, the virus spreads very quickly and can reach epidemic levels in temperate countries
Most people recover from the flu within a week or two. Unfortunately, people with compromised immunities such as elderly people above 65, pregnant women, people with underlying diseases and young children may not recover well. These people may develop more serious complications such as pneumonia or death.
To prevent transmission, it is advisable to practise high hygiene standards such as hand-washing and using hand sanitisers where water is unavailable. However, in high density places such as nurseries, schools and shopping malls, the virus is easily spread by infected people who haven’t start experiencing symptoms.
Vaccination is recommended to stop the spread of influenza, especially as people travel widely for business and leisure nowadays. The influenza vaccination is available at all general practitioners at between RM100-RM120 for a year. The new transdermal vaccination is fast and easier to administer, providing more patient comfort and less pain.