Influenza virus is a shape shifter and more precautions are needed

11:55 am Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine

Flu is not similar to cold and can be a serious illness

New Delhi, 10th April 2019: Food additive tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ)-found in many common products from frozen meat to crackers and fried foods-suppresses the immune response the body mounts when fighting the flu, a recent study has suggested. In addition to increasing the severity of flu symptoms, the study found evidence that tBHQ exposure could reduce the effectiveness of the flu vaccine through its effects on T cells, a vital component of the immune system.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently launched a strategy to protect people worldwide over the next decade against the threat of influenza, warning that new pandemics are ‘inevitable’. WHO’s new strategy, for 2019 through 2030, aims to prevent seasonal influenza, control the virus’s spread from animals to humans and prepare for the next pandemic, WHO said.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “During flu illness, our body is under a lot of stress and inflammation is up. Further, the oxygen levels and blood pressure can drop which lead to an increased risk of blood clots in the vessels that serve the heart. All of these can cause heart attack. Vaccination is the best way to reduce the risk of getting flu. Being vaccinated gives you protection against flu by building immunity to the virus and preventing transmission of the virus to other people. The initial symptoms of flu include headaches, chills, and a cough. Other signs such as fever, loss of appetite, and muscle aches follow late. Apart from this, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are rare in adults but more common in children.”

Influenza or ‘the flu’ is a highly contagious disease caused by infection from influenza type A or B (or rarely C) virus. These viruses infect the upper airways and lungs. Flu is not similar to a common cold and can be a serious illness. It is particularly of harm to the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “As viruses adapt and change, so do those contained within the vaccines – what is included in them is based on international surveillance and scientists’ calculations about which virus types and strains will circulate in a given year. Flu is primarily treated with rest and fluid intake to allow the body to fight the infection on its own. Paracetamol may help cure the symptoms but NSAIDs should be avoided. An annual vaccine can help prevent the flu and limit its complications.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

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