Seasonal influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory viral illness. But it is often mistaken for a common cold caused by another viral infection. There are some similarities between these two diseases, such as whooping cough, sore throat, and nasal congestion, but there are also some important differences. With the common cold such as fever, chills, body aches, headache, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea.⁇ Symptoms that do not occur can also be seen in a person with the flu.
Be very careful during the rainy season and winter.
Influenza is endemic in winter in temperate climates. In the tropics, climate-related epidemics appear irregular throughout the year.
Due to climatic variation in India, the incidence of influenza varies greatly from north to south. In some parts of the country, especially the north, influenza is more prevalent during winters. Elsewhere, it is more affected during the monsoon season.2 Therefore, we need different practices throughout the year with a regional focus for protection against influenza.
Influenza can be controlled and prevented
One of the main reasons for the outbreak of this disease each year is that although the influenza virus remains the same, very small genetic changes occur. This is called “antigenic drift.” This prevents people from developing long-lasting immunity. For example, a person who was infected with the flu last year has the ability to fight the virus. But genetic3 Immunity may not be enough to survive this year’s series of viruses, which comes with little change.
Seasonal influenza is most often caused by type A or type B influenza viruses. Both viruses are responsible for the annual outbreak of the disease. The prevalence rate is 5-10% in adults and 20-30% in children.4 Worldwide, influenza has been reported since September 2020 in tropical and subtropical countries, as well as in some countries in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Influenza outbreak5 India is one of the most reported tropical Asian countries.
The first step in protecting yourself against the virus is the influenza vaccine, also known as a “flu shot.” The most suitable due to genetic mutations in the main influenza viruses.6 The latest flu vaccine is needed to ensure adequate immunity.
Haven’t you had the flu shot yet?
People get vaccinated when it’s time for the flu to spread7 You need to consider the matter. Flu vaccines are safe and effective.5 Follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which recommends that the last flu shot be given two weeks before the start of flu season in a particular area.
To vaccinate people who may have a severe influenza infection and need to be hospitalized.⁇ It should be specifically encouraged. These include:
- Pregnant women
- Children (under 5 years old)
- Adults (≥ 65 years)
- People with serious medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, heart, kidney, liver disease, metabolic disorders, or neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions.
Healthy children and adults8 Flu outbreaks seem to be exacerbated during pregnancy and in children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Flu Vaccination9.10 You can strengthen your immune system by preparing fighting antibodies. The latest quadrivalent vaccines are available today and provide simultaneous protection against four different types of influenza viruses. These include the second B strain of influenza viruses, compared to trivalent vaccines designed to protect against a B strain.
If you and your family have not yet been vaccinated, this may be the right time to contact your GP.
Dr. This article was contributed by Prameela Joji (DCH (GLAS), DNB – SAT, TVM, DAA-CMC, Vellore). She works as a Pediatric ICU and Emergency Consultant and as an Allergy and Asthma Specialist.
The information provided in this article is for awareness purposes only. Do not consider this as a substitute for a doctor’s advice. Check with your doctor. Abbott India Limited will not be liable in any way for the use of this information and will not be liable, legally or otherwise, for consequences arising from the information contained in this article.
1 World Health Organization. (2018, November 06). Fact Sheet: Influenza (Seasonal). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal).
2 Koul, Parvaiz A et al. “Differences in Influenza Seasonality by Latitude, North India”. Emerging infectious diseases vol. 20, 10 (2014): 1723-6. doi: 10.3201 / eid2010.140431
3 World Health Organization. How pandemic influenza arises. Retrieved from: https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/communicable-diseases/influenza/pandemic-influenza/how-pandemic-influenza-emerges
4 Houser K, Subbarao K. Influenza Vaccines: Challenges and Solutions. Cellular host microbe. 2015; 17 (3): 295-300. doi: 10.1016 / j.chom.2015.02.012
5 World Health Organization. (2021, February 21). Recommended Influenza Virus Vaccine Compositions for Use in the 2021-2022 Northern Hemisphere Influenza Season.
6 World Health Organization. How can I avoid getting the flu? (2020, January 20). Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/qa-detail/how-can-i-avoid-getting-the-flu?
7 World Health Organization Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Similarities and Differences from Influenza. (2020, March 17). Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/qa-detail/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-similarities-and-differences-with -influenza
8 National Infectious Diseases Foundation. Influenza. (updated in November 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.nfid.org/infectious-diseases/influenza-flu/
9 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Key facts about the flu vaccine. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm
10 World Health Organization (2021). Global Influenza Program. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/teams/global-influenza-programme/vaccines
Disclaimer: Opinions shared by physicians are based on their independent professional judgment. We are not responsible for the accuracy of your comments. It cannot be considered as a substitute for the advice of a physician. Talk to your treating doctor for more information.