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Influenza - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

Influenza is defined as a contagious viral infectious disease. It is caused by a virus called influenza, or myxovirus influenza, of which there are several variations that are subject to change every year, hence the need to adapt the preventive vaccine annually.

Outbreaks occur in episodes. However, most breakouts occur during the late fall and winter. The virus is particularly severe in vulnerable people (i.e. children, the elderly, and the immuno-compromised) and is the cause of thousands of deaths each year. Transmission occurs by air (e.g. when coughing, sneezing, etc.).

Symptoms of Influenza

The disease has various characteristic symptoms. They do not necessarily occur all at the same time.

Symptoms of the flu include sudden onset of fatigue; loss of appetite; muscle aches and joint pain; high fever; dry cough; stuffy or runny nose; and headaches.

Diagnosing Influenza

A diagnosis is made after discussing clinical symptoms, since a physical examination can only identify a few objective signs. A simple medical consultation is sufficient to establish the diagnosis.

Treatment of Influenza

The flu will generally go away in less than a week, after following its natural course. Coughing and fatigue may, however, persist longer.

Treatment essentially consists of resting and treating the symptoms with analgesics to relieve aches; antipyretics, if the fever is unbearable (e.g. paracetamol, analgesic and antipyretics, while avoiding aspirin in young children); cough syrup.

In the absence of weakness or complications, no further treatment is necessary. Antibiotics have no effect on influenza, as it is a viral disease.

Prevention of Influenza

Simple hygiene measures can prevent the disease. These can include washing hands after coming in contact with doorknobs, or after shaking hands with someone during periods of the epidemic. It is also possible to wear a disposable mask (especially in areas with a lot of sick people) and to use disposable tissues when blowing your nose and sneezing.

These precautions do not protect you completely against the contraction of the virus. For that, there is a vaccine against the flu. It is recommended that you get vaccinated during the winter, especially for people over 65 years of age, children treated with long-term aspirin, vulnerable people, and health professionals. Widespread vaccination can protect the most fragile.

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