Influenza, popularly known as flu is a viral infection characterized by fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, muscle and joint pain and malaise. Fever is often very high. Common cold is a less severe disease where fever is generally mild with running nose and mild headache. In young children, impaired respiration, dehydration, altered mental status, and irritability signify serious disease. In case of school going children there will be large absentees with similar symptoms.
Influenza may occur at any time of the year but it is usually more common during monsoon season and during winter months in some places. These viruses cause an infection in the respiratory tract, or nose, throat and lungs. The virus is inhaled or transmitted, usually via your fingers, to the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose or eyes. It then travels down the respiratory tract. Risk groups for severe influenza include children aged below 5 years age, pregnant women, elderly people and individuals with underlying health conditions such as asthma, or chronic heart or lung diseases, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.
Secondary bacterial pneumonia is a frequent complication of influenza, particularly in risk groups. The annual attack rate of influenza is estimated at 5–10% in adults and 20–30% in children.
Diagnosis of influenza requires laboratory confirmation which is not available in most of the centers.
There is only one drug which is available for treatment. But it can be procured only after confirmatory tests and from specific drug centers. It is important to create awareness among the public about the symptoms, its ill effects and the need for timely action within 72 hours for successful treatment and prevention of fatalities.
Flu can be prevented by following these steps:
1. Avoid contact – when you are sick keep distance from others to protect them from getting sick too
2. Stay home when you are sick-if possible stay home from work, school. It will help prevent others from catching your illness.
3. Cover your mouth and nose-this prevents others from getting sick
4. Clean your hands always – washing hands will often help protect from germs
5. Avoid touching your nose eyes or mouth- germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs.
6. Practice other good health habits – get plenty of sleep, be physically active, drink plenty of fluids.
7. The most effective method of protecting young children below one year, elderly above 65 years and pregnant women from lethal infections such as influenza is through vaccination.
These information and statistics are delivered to the Media today from Pediatric Infectious Diseases Academy Kolkata for public interest by the Experts:
Dr Ritabrata Kundu, Professor of Pediatrics, Institute of Child Health, Kolkata
Dr Raja Dhar, Consultant Pulmonologist, Fortis Hospital, Kolkata
Dr Jaydeep Choudhury, Professor of Pediatrics, Institute of Child Health, Kolkata
Dr Prabhas Prasun Giri, Pediatric Intensivist, Associate Professor of Pediatrics,
Institute of Child Health, Kolkata