Influenza is a viral infection that is caused by the influenza virus. It affects the respiratory system and causes complications such as bacterial pneumonia and dehydration. There are three types of influenza viruses. They include Type A, Type B, and Type C. Types A and B are very common and usually cause outbreaks and epidemics around the world. Type C is relatively rare and usually causes mild infections. The virus is spread through airborne droplets of respiratory secretions from coughs and sneezes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccination is the best way to combat influenza because the virus strains mutate rapidly. Therefore, a new vaccine must be produced every year. Factors that increase the risk of infection include age, living conditions, pregnancy, chronic illnesses, and weakened immune system.
Description of the Disease
As mentioned earlier, influenza is a viral infection that is caused by the influenza virus that comprises three types, namely, Influenza A, B, and C. The strains have different virulence capabilities and treatment modalities.
Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, sore throat, running nose, persistent cough, malaise, muscle, and joint pain, sneezing, petechial rash, vomiting, nasal congestion, reddened eyes and skin, chill and sweats, and headache (“Flu symptoms & complications,” 2017).
The disease is transmitted through the transfer of virus particles from an infected to a healthy person when sneezing or coughing (Rao, 2012). When an infected person coughs or sneezes, millions of virus particles are released. Transmission of influenza occurs through direct transmission, hand-to-mouth contact, hand-to-nose contact, and through the airborne rote (Dehner, 2012). The virus can also be transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces. This happens because the virus can persist in external environments for prolonged periods.
Complications caused by influenza include bacterial or viral pneumonia, sinus infections, dehydration, and ear infections (Rao, 2012). Studies have also shown that the disease worsens the health statuses of individuals with asthma, diabetes, and congestive heart failure (“Flu symptoms & complications,” 2017).
Antiviral medication is the main treatment remedy for influenza. The two types of drugs used include neuraminidase inhibitors and M2 proton inhibitors (Rao, 2012). People with influenza are usually advised to consume fluids in great amounts and have enough rest. Drugs such as acetaminophen are used to clear headaches, joint pain, and fever. In the United States, Oseltamivir and Zanamivir are recommended for the treatment of influenza (Dehner, 2012).
Morbidity, Mortality, Incidence, and Prevalence
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 15 percent of the population in the United States contracts the disease annually (Rao, 2012). Moreover, the disease causes more than 36,000 deaths every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that influenza causes approximately 500,000 deaths every year around the world (Rao, 2012). The majority of the deaths are reported among people above the age of 65. In tropical regions, the flu causes severe outbreaks throughout the year. It is difficult to determine the mortality rate of influenza because, in many cases, deaths are caused by secondary complications of influenza.
Determinants of Health
Determinants of health refer to social, economic, and environmental factors that influence the health status of an individual. They include social factors, individual characteristics and behaviors, and health services. The environment and climate determine whether the influenza virus dies or flourishes. The virus flourishes in cooler weather (Rao, 2012). Therefore, more infections are experienced in mid-winter. Personal behaviors such as proper hygiene and covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing influence the disease’s development. Coughing and sneezing with an open mouth releases virus particles that increase the risk of infection (“Key facts about influenza,” 2016). Economic and political factors, such as trade and travel, influence the development of influenza. Travel and the interaction of people during trade increase the transmission of the disease around the world. As mentioned earlier, the disease can be transmitted through contact with infected surfaces. Therefore, it is important to keep the physical environment clean (Rao, 2012). The health system is also a key factor in the development of influenza. Aspects of disease prevention, such as vaccination, are only available in countries with well-developed and efficient health systems. In many developing countries, vaccines are unavailable because of poor health systems.
The Epidemiologic Triangle and Influenza
The epidemiologic triangle comprises three aspects, namely, host, agent, and environment.
Human beings are the main host for the influenza virus. Other hosts include wild birds, shorebirds, geese, horses, and ducks (Rao, 2012). Individuals with weak immune systems provide more suitable host environments than individuals with stronger immune systems (Dehner, 2012).
The agent of influenza is the influenza virus that comprises three types, namely, Influenza A, Influenza B, and Influenza C (“Key facts about influenza,” 2016). The virus is transmitted through the droplets of respiratory secretions released when coughing or sneezing.
The environmental factors associated with influenza include climate, sanitation, and animal carriers. Certain strains of influenza have reservoirs in animals and, as a result, increase the risk of transmission (“Key facts about influenza,” 2016). Any individual exposed to carrier animals becomes highly susceptible to infection.
The Role of Community Health Nurse
One of the responsibilities of community health nurses in mitigating influenza is investigating and reporting with regard to the rates and instances of influenza in communities. They gather statistics on communicable diseases and forward their findings to organizations that focus on the prevention and eradication of diseases such as the CDC. Therefore, community health nurses’ role is to collect information in order to support research and educate the public regarding the prevention and treatment of influenza (“Key facts about influenza,” 2016). The information gathered is used in risk assessment and determination of the effectiveness of various preventive interventions and treatment remedies. For instance, the effectiveness of a vaccine is determined by analyzing the data collected by nurses. Another role of community health nurses is to create awareness regarding the seriousness of influenza. They create awareness by designing advertising campaigns and conducting community workshops that teach people about the risks of influenza, how they can avoid infection, and the benefits of vaccination. Community health nurses also conduct follow-ups after patients have been cured in order to monitor their progress and determine the effectiveness of treatment.
An Organization that Fights Influenza
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the federal agencies that fight influenza. The agency focuses on protecting public health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases. CDC develops and applies disease control and prevention strategies on areas that include health promotion, environmental health, infectious disease, injury prevention, and occupational safety and health. The agency has launched several campaigns to educate people about proper hygiene, the risks of influenza, and how to avoid infection. In 2005, the CDC created the National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) to create awareness about the importance of flu vaccination. The agency offers flu vaccination every year to protect people from influenza. The CDC also creates awareness through the dissemination of information to the public. People learn about the risks of influenza, complications, individuals who are at high risk, treatment, prevention, epidemiology, and preventive measures. The agency also offers recommendations and guidelines regarding flu vaccination. CDC recommends three actions to fight influenza: getting a flu vaccine, taking everyday preventive actions to avoid infection, and taking antiviral drugs. Finally, the agency offers guidance for influenza outbreak management in healthcare facilities. Their strategy involves a multi-faceted approach that comprises vaccination, testing, infection control, antiviral treatment, and antiviral chemoprophylaxis.
Influenza is a viral infection that is caused by influenza virus and transmitted through droplets of respiratory secretions. The different strains of the influenza virus mutate rapidly and therefore, it is necessary to develop a new vaccine every year. The WHO and CDC describe influenza as a serious public health problem that affects individuals of all ages. Public awareness through education and vaccination are the most effective ways of combating influenza. The disease is caused by influenza virus that has three different strains that include influenza A, influenza B, and influenza C. The virus evolves rapidly. Therefore, combating the disease is difficult. In that regard, organizations focus on minimizing the effects of the disease on communities. They get help from community health nurses who collect data and disseminate information regarding influenza. Moreover, they play a key role in supporting the initiatives of healthcare organizations regarding preventive care.
Dehner, G. (2012). Influenza. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh.
Flu symptoms & complications. (2017). Web.
Key facts about influenza (Flu) (2016). Web.
Rao, M. I. (2012). Influenza: Complete spectrum-II-ECAB. New York, NY: Elsevier Health sciences.