What is Flu?

The flu, a shortened version of the term influenza, is a respiratory illness that is very contagious. It is generally caused to two types of viruses, Influenza Type A or Type B. The most common time of year to catch the flu is in the early spring or winter. When your body contracts the virus it can very quickly spread to your upper and lower respiratory tracts.

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Is There A Difference Between Respiratory Flu and Stomach Flu?

You often hear of people getting stomach flu, but that is not really a correct medical diagnosis. Many times folks contract gastroenteritis, a viral infection that makes you stick to your stomach, and refer to it as the stomach flu. What these folks are actually suffering from is inflammation of their stomach, intestines, or both.  And while the condition can be quite uncomfortable, with diarrhea, nausea, cramps and vomiting — it is not caused by influenza virus.

When you have the flu it is like having a cold — only worse. Usually you will feel chills, a headache, fatigue and a congested respiratory system. Often the first symptoms of the flu will develop so quickly that you may go from feeling fine to feeling very sick in just a matter of a few hours. 

How do you contract the flu?

FluThe flu virus is spread through contamination. If you come in contact with secretions found on drinking glasses, silverware, or any item handled by someone with the flu, you can contract it. Oftentimes this will occur when you get the virus on your hands and then touch your nose, mouth or eyes. For that reason there is no better preventative measure to taken than washing your hands regularly with soap and hot water. When you are infected with the flu virus, the first symptoms will generally reveal themselves in one to four days.

Are there different types of flu viruses?

Medical science currently agrees that there are three general categories. They have labeled these Type A, Type B and Type C. Each of these, however, can mutate and turn into new strains.

Type A is the most prone to mutation and spawns new flu strains every couple of years. Type B generally causes milder flu symptoms, but can still cause an epidemic every three to five years. You can never really become immune to the flu. Type C, on the other hand, does not cause the more typical symptoms. Even if your system develops antibodies against one strain, chances are they will do no good when a new strain comes along.

In addition, Types A and B have both been linked to Reye’s Syndrome. This condition generally is most dangerous for young people age 18 and younger. It can be dangerous. The condition can be complicated by taking aspirin — so that is why your doctor will usually tell you not to give aspirin to children.

Often, it seems, new strains of influenza originate in Asia. Scientists believe it is because there is closer contact between people and livestock in that area of the world. Both birds and pigs have acted as hosts for new strains of flu virus. That is why we often hear such common terms as Avian Flu and Swine Flu. It is believed that the viruses are hosted by these animals. People become infected in the same common ways: by getting the virus on their hands or by breathing in air that contains infected moisture droplets.

No one wants to get the flu! Each year it is a good idea to get a flu shot and to be sure you wash your hands with soap and hot water several times each day.

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