You feel tired and achy all over. In that same moment your bed seems incredibly alluring. It whispers kindly and softly “Come to me. You know you want to.” All the while, your throat also feels sore and itches relentlessly. Now your nose becomes irritated and sneezing follows. Just great! (Of course not.) It’s been ages since you desperately scrabbled for those napkins! Not again (sighs). Surely with your keenness we’re certain you guessed that the mentioned scenario is typical when a person is said to have contracted influenza, or the flu as it’s more commonly called. With that said, what really is influenza? How does one catch it? (And no, not by getting a chill in cold or rainy weather guys).

What is Influenza?

Influenza, is an infectious disease caused by an influenza virus. These viruses which affect humans are usually of three types called Type A, Type B, and Type C. (It might be interesting to note that H1N1 which caused the deadly Swine flu of 2009 was a type A virus). Usually, when a person becomes infected with the flu, the symptoms as depicted in the above scenario become manifest. Flu symptoms include chills, fever, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, muscle or body aches, coughing, and tiredness. On average, these symptoms of influenza begin around the second day after exposure to the virus and span about a week. Interestingly, many adamantly repeat stories of how they came down with influenza from getting a chill in cold climate or even getting their feet wet in rainy conditions. How does one really catch the flu though? We shall see!

How Does One Catch Influenza?

Bearing in mind that the flu is caused from either of three strains of viruses, the focus is shifted on exactly just how these viruses get to invade the body. Usually, the virus is airborne, traveling throughout over a relatively short distance as droplets when an infected person coughs, talks or sneezes. These droplets may find their way in the eyes, noses or mouths of people within the locality. Alternatively, it can be indirectly introduced to an individual who innocently touches a surface contaminated by the virus and then touches his nose, mouth or eyes without first washing his hands. The onset of the aforementioned symptoms then confirm the presence of influenza although a person may be sick or even pass the virus along to another before the symptoms themselves become obvious. (So not cool, I agree). Nevertheless, actions can be taken to prevent or mitigate the spread of the flu. What are some of these? Let’s proceed to find out.

Preventing or Controlling the Spread of Influenza

In order to avoid contracting influenza, many individuals find it helpful and effective to take an influenza vaccine, by and large every year. This vaccine makes one immune to at least three or four types of flu. The yearly aspect may become necessary as the virus rapidly evolves and thus a vaccination given in one year may not be rendered to be of use in the following year. Other preventative measures include frequent handwashing as soap kills the virus upon contact, staying away from those infected and covering coughs and sneezes with a handy napkin or handkerchief. By all means if you also dare to wear a surgical mask in public, then go for it buddy! (There’s no doubt that that is an option too- largely uncommon, but an option nonetheless!)

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