Influenza (the flu) and its variances are as common as the seasons in which they flourish, arriving every year to wreak havoc. Most people make it through the flu with simple at-home remedies or prescription medication from the doctor’s office. However, the flu lasts much longer than the common cold (up to two weeks) and can be deadly for young children, the elderly or people with severely comprised immune systems.
It’s important to recognize that the flu’s variances (types A, B, C and D) occur at various times during the year and affect people and animals differently. Here are some of the flu’s variations, when to expect them and how to treat them.
Flu types A – C are spread person to person when an infected individual coughs, sneezes or expels droplets of spit or phlegm when speaking. Any person who touches a surface or object where droplets have landed or ingests them while talking or breathing near an infected person may become infected with the illness. It’s important to stay away from sick people and to wash hands often with soap and water during flu seasons.
Types A and B are considered seasonal epidemics, with most cases in North America occurring during winter. Type A viruses are divided into two subtypes based on the proteins located on the surface of the virus:
- Hemagglutinin (H1 – H18)
- Neuraminidase (N1 – N11)
Sometimes a combination of the two occurs, including the highly publicized H1N1 virus, which has the potential to lead to a pandemic. Type B viruses aren’t divided into subtypes like type A viruses are – instead they’re broken down into lineages and strains. The type B viruses that are commonly detected now belong to two lineages: B/Yamagata and B/Victoria (naming conventions are created by the CDC, often incorporating the source or vector in which the disease was first detected).
Most flu vaccines protect against H1N1, H3N2 and one to two strains of type B. However, the seasonal flu vaccine doesn’t protect against type C viruses. Type C is identified as a respiratory illness and doesn’t lead to epidemics. Type C can affect multiple species, including dogs and pigs, but is less common than types A and B. Humans are virtually safe against type D, which only affects cattle. No documented cases exist of a human ever being infected by type D.
The flu virus is constantly evolving, producing a variety of diverse species and strains every year. Certain strains can die off while others can evolve and lead to an epidemic or pandemic. Although the flu is as common as colds, the flu’s greater lethality can’t be disputed.
History has shown flu pandemics to be incredibly lethal, with the 1918 flu pandemic being one of the most devastating documented cases of the H1N1 strain. The strain infected 500 million people between 1918 and 1919, killing an estimated 20 – 50 million. Americans suffered 675,000 deaths during that H1N1 pandemic, with many of the victims being young and otherwise healthy adults.
Flu vaccines aren’t perfect; but they are the best shot your family has at preventing infection.
Manage Flu Symptoms or Get a Flu Shot from St. Hope Foundation
Avoiding the flu is difficult, no matter how healthy you are, but you can manage the symptoms to make it through a flu infection with treatments from St. Hope Foundation. SHF offers comprehensive primary care focusing on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a broad spectrum of illnesses. Our primary care services include:
- Diagnosis and treatment of any undiagnosed symptoms or health care concerns
- Routine health and cancer screenings
- Illness treatment for conditions such as colds and flu
- Treatment of minor injuries, including cuts and sprains
- Treatment and management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma
- Minor surgery, such as suturing, biopsies, vasectomies, and removal of skin lesions and moles
- Second opinions or consultations and referrals to specialists for complex cases
- Wellness and disease prevention
- Geriatric care
- Interventional pain management
We also provide seasonal flu shots to prevent epidemics from occurring in our local communities. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a flu shot or to manage your flu symptoms with medication.