Is there a cure for flu virus? Answers to your 10 most-asked questions
There are viruses and then there is the flu virus. What makes influenza unique is the shape-shifting nature of the virus. As it continuously changes its form and shape, people are exposed to newer strains every year. All of this makes it a tough disease to eradicate, and experts say there are chances of a flu pandemic. Which means, you really need to read this handy guide to protect yourself.
Dr Sanjith Saseedharan, Head of Intensive Care Unit, S L Raheja Hospital, answers some common questions about the virus:
• Why do a lot of people treat the flu virus lightly?
Just like “common” cold, people tend to take the flu virus lightly. This can be a very wrong practice as the disease can aggravate suddenly. Some patients may need hospitalisation or even admission to the Intensive Care Unit in a very short span of time. So, the wait and watch policy can prove dangerous.
• Why is the virus dangerous for health?
The flu virus, in itself, is not dangerous. However, the body does mount a response against it by mediators called as Cytokines which, in effect, causes all the symptoms of flu. At times, this immunological reaction can be overwhelmingly strong, causing damage to various organs, including the lungs. Most importantly, patients getting infected with the flu virus become conflicted by other bacteria which causes an increased morbidity and sometimes mortality.
• Can the flu vaccine give you the flu?
No. The vaccine may cause some side effects like muscle soreness, maybe a mild fever for a day or two, but it will never give a person the flu.
• How do you know if you really have the flu?
The symptoms would include headache, body ache, generalised weakness, sore throat and other ailments. In severe cases, there may be difficulty in breathing, bluish discolouration of lips, severe dehydration, drop in urine output and dizziness.
• Why do some people suffer from severe flu?
Usually, people suffering from flu will recover within two weeks. However, some patients who do have other chronic health problems will experience worsening of the primary problem, which thus makes such patients very sick, warranting hospitalisation(for e.g. worsening of asthma, or even heart failure). Severe flu-like illnesses are also seen at extremes of age (less than 5 years and more than 65 years), in pregnant women and those people living in chronic healthcare facilities.
• Does air travel increase risk of getting flu?
Air travel, in itself, does not increase the risk of catching flu, unless there is another flu-infected traveller seated close to you (within two rows), and manifesting symptoms like a cough, which may lead you to acquiring it.
• Why is flu linked to cold weather?
The flu virus can remain stable in air when the weather is cold, and especially with low humidity. This may also be associated with the fact that there may be overcrowding in cold weather as people tend to remain indoors and hence, cross-infection is quicker.
• How can you protect yourself from getting/spreading germs?
Ensure you wash your hands well as the flu can persist on door knobs and tables for prolonged periods. Also, avoid being in close proximity to patients who are sick with the flu. This is apart from eating nutritious food, having a good night’s sleep, and keeping the house and environment clean. When infected, cover your mouth when you cough, avoid crowded places and remain at home till a day after the fever subsides.
• Can your pets get the flu?
It is very rare to transmit the human flu from oneself to one’s dog, as the flu virus is species-specific. However, there is a canine-specific flu which may travel between pets.
• What are some remedies for the flu?
There are a number of remedies that have passed from generation to generation, but the common point among all is the heat or steam that is related to a hot soup, tea, or warm water, that may soothe the sore throat and reduce post-nasal drip. Similarly, salt water gargles help reduce the inflammation and help in relieving the upper respiratory congestion symptoms of the flu. However, it is important to drink adequate amount of water as flu can lead to dehydration. Keep eating nutritious food. Most importantly, get flu shots which can help in preventing seasonal flu.
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