The flu season has arrived again, and this year it seems that the virus of this disease is more active in all countries. According to various reports, several people around the world have lost their lives due to this disease. Influenza occurs worldwide with an attack rate of 5 to 10 percent in adults and 20 to 30 percent in children. In temperate regions, the flu is a seasonal disease that usually occurs during the winter months. There is no definite seasonal pattern in the tropics, and influenza flows are seen throughout the year and usually peak several times during the rainy season. Death occurs mainly in people at risk, such as the young, the elderly, and those with other health problems. The flu spreads worldwide every year, causing about 3 to 5 million severe illness cases and about 290,000 to 650,000 deaths.
Children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses, and health care workers are vulnerable to catching the flu or related problems such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. Meanwhile, children under the age of two are especially vulnerable. Children under the age of 6 months cannot be vaccinated against the flu, so the best way to protect them against the virus is to vaccinate people who contact them.
Adults 65 and older are at greater risk than younger healthy people due to weakened immune systems. Typically, most deaths from influenza and more than half of all hospital-related deaths are in the elderly. (Take Care Of These Common Winter Diseases This Year!)
Pregnant women and women who gave birth in the two weeks before the disease are more likely to get the flu than non-pregnant women. Complications of the disease are more likely to occur in people with chronic health problems such as the following:
People who have a weakened immune system due to cancer, HIV, or other diseases
The most common types of flu this year are H1N1 and H3N2. H1N1 influenza accounts for about 90% of diagnoses, the most severe form of the disease.
Technically, the term swine flu refers to the flu that occurs in pigs. Pigs sometimes transmit the flu virus to humans, mainly to pig breeders and veterinarians. Sometimes a person with a swine flu infection can pass it on to others. Called H1N1, the virus was a combination of swine, bird, and human viruses.
During the 2009 to 2010 flu season, H1N1 caused a respiratory infection in humans and became known as swine flu. Because so many people worldwide became infected that year, the World Health Organization declared H1N1 flu a global epidemic. Since then, scientists have changed the way viruses are named. The H1N1 virus is now known as H1N1v. The letter v stands for “variant” and indicates that the virus usually is circulating in animal populations but has also been observed in humans. Since 2011, the virus, H3N2v, has been circulating in human populations and causing influenza.
Influenza viruses belong to the family Orthomyxoviridae. The influenza virus is divided into types A, B, and C based on its central proteins. Only types A and B cause disease in humans. Different subtypes of influenza A viruses are identified based on the glycoproteins on their coating. These glycoproteins have the activity of hemagglutinin (HA) or neuraminidase (NA) (N and H, which are used to describe the virus, stand for neuraminidase and hemagglutinin). There are 16 subsets of hemagglutinin and nine subsets of neuraminidase that can form different compounds. High mutations and frequent genetic recombination of these viruses cause a great variety in HA and NA antigens. Small point mutations that cause small changes (antigenic drift) occur frequently. Antigenic drives enable the virus to escape the immune system detection process, leading to repeated influenza outbreaks throughout the year. Significant changes in HA antigen (antigen shift) occur as a result of recombination of the genetic material of different subgroups A. Antigenic shifts that lead to new pandemic strains (strains that lead to the global epidemic of the disease) are rare occurrences that occur through recombination between human and animal subtypes, for example, the H1N1 influenza virus, which was new recombination in Human populations were not seen. The virus is not genetically related to current or past seasonal human influenza viruses.
Avian influenza refers to a disease caused by infection with the influenza A virus, which is avian influenza. The virus is naturally present in wild bluebirds and can infect domestic birds and other birds and animal species. Avian influenza viruses do not usually cause human infection. According to the head of the Infectious Diseases Management Department of the Ministry of Health, no human infection cases with the bird flu virus have been reported in the country so far.
What are the common symptoms of the flu?
Influenza is an acute respiratory infection of varying severity, ranging from asymptomatic infection to a fatal disease. Typical flu symptoms include sudden onset of fever, chills, sore throat, dry cough, often accompanied by headache, cold, muscle aches, and extreme tiredness. Less common symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. Children with the flu are more likely to have diarrhea and vomiting. Not everyone who gets the flu experiences a fever. Complications of influenza include pneumonia, middle ear infection, and exacerbation of chronic diseases. The disease is more severe in the elderly, infants, and young children, and people with weakened immune systems. Seasonal flu deaths occur mainly in the elderly and people with chronic diseases.
H1N1 flu is similar to seasonal flu but has higher activity characteristics during the Northern Hemisphere summer season, higher mortality rates among healthy young adults, and a higher prevalence of viral pneumonia.
Respiratory transmission is mainly by droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing. Transmission of the virus through the air over short distances may occur, especially in enclosed and crowded spaces. Hand infection and direct injection of the virus are other possible sources of transmission.
If you think you have the flu:
Stay home, rest, and avoid contact with others unless you need medical attention. Avoid contact with others for at least 24 hours after the fever subsides to prevent the flu spread.
Be aware of the more severe warning signs associated with the effects of the flu. These symptoms in children include the following:
- Fast breathing or difficulty
- Bruising of the skin
- You are in a bad mood
- Fever accompanied by skin rash
- No interaction
- Do not drink liquids
- Symptoms that improve but then return with a more severe fever and cough
Dangerous symptoms in adults include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Dizziness or confusion
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Symptoms that improve but then return with a more severe fever and cough.
How is the flu treated?
In 2018, after 20 years, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug for influenza: Balozavir Marboxil. The new drug was added to three existing antiviral drugs to treat influenza: oseltamivir, peramivir, and zanamivir.
Antiviral drugs reduce the symptoms of the flu and reduce the duration of the illness. These are prescription drugs that come in various forms, such as tablets, liquids, inhalants, and intravenous solutions, and the doctor prescribes the appropriate option for the patient. These drugs may also have side effects.
The critical point is that medications should be started because studies show that they work best during the first two days of illness.
Keep in mind that antibiotics are not effective in treating the flu, so avoid taking these medications arbitrarily to treat the flu.
Prevention of influenza:
In addition to vaccination, daily preventive measures are essential. Stay away from people who are sick and follow hygienic tips such as frequent hand washing. The best time to get the flu vaccine is before the spread of the disease in the community because, after vaccination, it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to build up in the body and protect against the flu. During the flu season, avoid enclosed spaces as much as possible and avoid close contact with people with acute respiratory infections.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
There are many strains of the two influenza virus types (A and B) that can infect humans. For influenza vaccines to be prepared for the flu season, experts must decide months before the outbreak season begins. Because the virus’s strains change rapidly, the vaccine is not fully compatible with the influenza virus. Scott Epperson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the vaccine fits well this year and protects against the H1N1 and H3N2 strains circulating.
Even when a vaccine is well-matched, how it is produced may limit its effectiveness. Most vaccines are made using eggs as a culture medium, which may modify the virus and affect the vaccine’s performance.
During the flu season, experts study circulating samples of the virus to see how well the vaccine protects against those viruses. They use this information to decide whether to make the next vaccine. This year, most vaccines protect against two strains A (H1N1 and H3N2) and two strains B. The usual doses of this year’s flu vaccines are quadruple, meaning they protect against all four (triple vaccines are also available). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that, like other vaccines, the vaccine made for the flu is incomplete but reduces the risk of disease in the general population from 30 percent to 60 percent.
You’ve probably heard of two things about the flu vaccine: first, that you should get it every year, and second, that even if you get the flu vaccine, it may not completely protect you from the flu. Both are true. Although the vaccine has been shown to protect you against the flu, it is not made with 100% certainty. These vaccines are made before the flu season begins. However, after years of experience making the flu vaccine, scientists have good ideas of what works and what doesn’t. “Infectious disease specialist Ivan Stan Maldonado at Stanford University Health Care Center says:
We use data from last year’s Northern Hemisphere flu season and decide which strains should be included in next year’s vaccine at about the same time.
The decision-making process uses several prediction and estimation models. Still, it is always possible for a rogue virus to emerge and reduce the vaccine’s effectiveness in that season. Last year, one strain underwent major mutations, making the vaccine ineffective against that particular strain. There is no way to predict this. Of course, this does not mean that the vaccine is useless. This vaccine can often protect against the disease.
How effective is the vaccine this year?
Dr. Maldonado says it is too early to say how effective the vaccine will be this year. In general, however, vaccine efficacy can vary from 10 to 60-70 percent, and the average efficacy is 40 to 60 percent. But even efficacy of 40 to 60 percent can vary from person to person, meaning that your health condition affects the effectiveness of the vaccine. Consider, for example, people with weakened immune systems (such as those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation or taking medications with medical problems that weaken their immune response). Those people should receive the vaccine, but the degree to which the vaccine protects them is not the same as protecting a healthy person. This is one of the main reasons for getting the vaccine. You help other people in the community who are less secure.
Another issue that does not necessarily determine the vaccine’s effectiveness but can affect the flu is vaccination timing. It generally takes about two to four weeks for the flu vaccine to work in your body, so if you are exposed to the virus during this time, you may get the disease. If you received the flu vaccine much earlier than the outbreak season, the vaccine might not protect you throughout the season.
Of course, even if you have been vaccinated against the flu, you must protect yourself against the flu (keep in mind that the vaccine is not 100% effective). Get enough sleep, do not smoke (the symptoms of the disease are more severe in smokers), and frequently wash your hands. If you have the flu, stay home, and contribute to the general health of your community.
The National Institutes of Health recently provided $ 8 million in initial funding to the University of Georgia to develop a vaccine that could cover virus strains in a single dose. The university is collaborating with 14 other universities in this field.
Influenza Vaccine Options 2019-2020
Annual vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu. The vaccine is updated annually to protect against strains of the virus that are more likely to be circulating that season. Even in cases where the vaccine does not entirely prevent infection, it can reduce the disease’s severity and prevent severe flu complications, including hospitalization and death.
What types of flu vaccines are available?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of any age-appropriate vaccine during the 2019-2020 flu season. The different types of this vaccine based on the method of manufacture are the inactivated influenza (IIV) vaccine, the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV), or the attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). Different vaccines are allowed for different age groups, and some vaccines are not recommended for some groups. There is more than one suitable vaccine, but these vaccines do not take precedence over each other.
Who is the first person to get the flu shot?
- Children 6 months to 4 years (59 months)
- People aged 50 and over (flu complications, hospitalization, and death are generally more common among people 65 and older, although people 50 and older are also a priority group for vaccination because they are more likely to develop chronic diseases). Which can expose them to more severe complications from the flu)
- People with chronic lung disease (including asthma) or cardiovascular disease (excluding isolated hypertension), kidney, liver, neurological, blood, or metabolic diseases (including diabetes mellitus)
- People whose immune systems have been suppressed (for example, by taking certain medications or contracting HIV)
- Pregnant women or women who become pregnant during the flu season, as well as women up to two weeks after giving birth
- People 6 months to 18 years old take aspirin or salicylate-containing medications and develop Ray Syndrome after getting the flu infection.
- People living in nursing homes and other long-term care centers
- People with severe obesity
- Health care staff
- People who have contact with or care for children under five and the elderly
- People who are in contact with people with medical problems who have severe complications from the flu
Who should not get the flu shot?
People who have had Guillain-Barré syndrome within six weeks of the previous flu vaccination should not be vaccinated. Those who have a severe and deadly allergy to a component of the vaccine.
Ten ways to prevent colds and flu
The question for many people is how to prevent getting the flu and cold. This is an essential question because getting sick can stress the immune system and increase the risk of autoimmune problems, thyroid dysfunction, or other chronic diseases. Ten natural ways to support the immune system to prevent colds and flu are:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
Washing hands is the number one way to prevent the flu and other respiratory infections. To kill viruses, you must thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with contaminated hands.
2. Repair your bowel
Your gut is the gateway to your health because many of the immune systems are located in the gut. Make sure your bowel is in good condition. To improve the bacterial condition of the intestine, you can use quality probiotics that contain different strains. This keeps your gut bacteria levels at a proper level so that it can fight infections.
- Reduce sugar and alcohol consumption
High sugar intake can suppress your immune system and make it difficult for the body to defend itself against infections, including the flu virus. It also puts you at risk for intestinal infections such as Candida and SIBO, which suppress the immune system and cause bowel leakage. Alcohol consumption also suppresses the central nervous system and, therefore, the immune system.
- Reduce your stress
Stress suppresses the immune system. Doing activities such as yoga and meditation helps reduce stress.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night
During sleep, the toxins we are exposed to during the day are cleared from the body. Chronic insomnia can significantly weaken the immune system.
- Use safety boosters
Boost your immune system with an immune-boosting supplement. There are several types of supplements, some of which contain colostrum. Immunoglobulins in colostrum increase the levels of IgA antibodies, which are the body’s first line of defense. IgA antibodies are produced by intestinal immune cells and can destroy harmful pathogens and toxins.
- Take glutathione and turmeric supplements
Antioxidants are essential for the functioning of the immune system. Glutathione is the body’s main antioxidant, and its job is to strengthen the immune system and help detoxify the liver. Curcumin, the orange pigment in turmeric, is a free radical scavenger that improves joint health and cardiovascular function. (What Are The Benefits Of Turmeric?)
- Optimize vitamin D levels in your body
Vitamin D is involved in the functioning of the immune system, fighting infections, and regulating autoimmunity. Vitamin D intake can boost immune system function. If you do not eat foods that contain vitamin D, take a quality vitamin D supplement. Of course, pay attention to the instructions for taking supplements because taking too much of this vitamin is dangerous. It is recommended to take a vitamin D supplement that also contains vitamin K.
- Drink bone broth
Bone broth is beneficial for strengthening the immune system. A study published in the journal Chest found that eating chicken soup during a respiratory infection reduced upper respiratory symptoms and white blood cell counts. These benefits are thought to be due to this food’s inflammation-reducing properties due to amino acids such as proline and glycine.
- Exercise a lot
Exercise helps boost the immune system by increasing blood flow. Increased blood flow allows antibodies to move faster in the bloodstream, and the immune system can better fight disease. Exercise can also strengthen the immune system by relieving stress and reducing stress hormones in the body.