The flu. You’ve probably had it at least once.
But what exactly is it and how can you get rid of it? The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by different influenza viruses.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that the flu has caused between 12,000 and 56,000 annual deaths in the U.S. since 2010. Flu viruses are in the orthomyxoviridae family of viruses, which uses RNA as its genetic code and includes 4 types of influenza: A, B,C, and D.
A and B are the most common and prevalent, and they’re also seasonal. So who can get these viruses?
Wild aquatic birds are the main hosts for type A, but it can infect humans and other mammals. Including pigs, which are hosts of H1N1.
Type A viruses can also morph into new genetic forms, making them tough to kill. Which is the reason why they’re frequently behind flu pandemics.
Meanwhile, influenza B only infects humans and seals. But how do humans get the flu anyway?
Carriers of the flu can infect others 1 day before symptoms show, and 5-7 days after becoming sick. And it can spread to people up to 6 feet away mainly through droplets people make when they sneeze, cough, or talk.
Flu viruses can also spread via contaminated objects, since they can live on things like paper money for up to 10 days.
So how do you get rid of the flu once you have it?
Antiviral drugs can be prescribed, but they’re mainly used in flu cases where the afflicted person is either elderly or immunosuppressed since the side effects can be pretty intense and oftentimes worse than the flu it.
Instead, a flu vaccine is the first and best way to prevent the flu.
But where do those come from?
Flu vaccines are actually made in a process that involves chicken eggs. Candidate vaccine viruses are injected into fertilized hen’s eggs. The eggs are then incubated over several days to allow the virus to replicate. Then, fluid containing the virus gets harvested from these eggs.
The viruses are inactivated for the vaccine, and the virus antigen is purified. But it is worth noting that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies, depending on the flu virus of the season and the person being vaccinated.
Recent studies by the CDC show that vaccination reduces the risk of contracting the flu by between 40% to 60%. And current flu vaccines tend to protect better against viruses A(H1N1) and B.
But if you didn’t get a flu vaccine and you do end up with the flu, what should you do then?
It’s true what they say: wash your hands frequently and avoid close contact with people so you don’t infect others. Staying hydrated is also super important when you have the flu since it often comes with a runny nose and the sweats. Both of which contribute to dehydration.
Staying hydrated while sick helps to restore your electrolyte levels and blood volume. Drinking fluids also helps loosen mucus in your nose, which will relieve congestion.
Your mom told you to drink fluids and that’s actually sage advice