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Influenza: Battling the Seasonal Scourge

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It's a seasonal illness, typically peaking in the winter months in temperate climates. The flu can range from mild to severe, causing a variety of unpleasant symptoms and sometimes leading to serious complications.

a man is sitting on the floor blowing his nose in a napkin .

Understanding the Influenza Virus

There are three main types of influenza viruses that affect humans: influenza A, B, and C. Influenza A and B viruses are responsible for the seasonal epidemics of flu. Influenza C typically causes milder illness. Each influenza A and B virus can further be categorized into subtypes based on specific surface proteins. These subtypes are constantly evolving, which is why new flu vaccines are developed each year.

How Does the Flu Spread?

The flu virus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can be inhaled by others nearby or land on surfaces where the virus can live for a short time. People can become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Symptoms of the Flu

The hallmark symptoms of the flu typically come on suddenly and can include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough (dry or productive with mucus)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children.

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