Influenza: Treatment and Prevention Methods

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus that affects respiratory organs, including the nose, throat, and lungs. The illness can cause mild to severe complications and it is primarily spread through the transfer of respiratory fluids from an infected person to a healthy person during coughing or sneezing. The influenza virus exists in four main forms, namely Type A, Type B, and Type C and Type D. Types A and B are the most common and account for the highest number of illnesses and outbreaks globally.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the virus mutates quickly. In that regard, new vaccines are produced annually to combat viral mutations. The main treatment and prevention methods for influenza include the administration of antiviral drugs and the maintenance of proper hygiene.

Disease Description

Causes

Influenza is caused by the influenza virus that exists in three main types that have varying virulence levels. Types A and B are the most virulent while Types C and D are the least virulent (Wang & Tao, 2016). A strain’s virulence determines whether the symptoms are mild or severe. Type D viruses affect animals and any evidence of infecting humans has not been found.

Mode of Transmission

Flu is transmitted through droplets of respiratory secretions that are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This can occur through various routes that include hand-to-nose contact, direct transmission, and hand-to-mouth contact (Wang & Tao, 2016). When the droplets are released, they are transported to the mouths and noses of healthy people, and thereby trigger the infection process. In rare cases, the illness is spread through contact with a surface or object that harbors the virus and then touching one’s mouth, nose or eyes.

Symptoms

The symptoms of flu are usually observed 1 to 4 days after coming into contact with the virus and they linger for approximately a week. They range from mild to severe, depending on the virus type. The most common signs include fatigue, chills, body aches, sore throat, fever, cough, runny and stuffy nose, and headache (“Flu symptoms and complications,” 2018). Others include cold sweats and shivers, nasal congestion, sneezing, petechial rash, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea (“Flu symptoms and complications,” 2018). Emergency warning signs include extreme vomiting, chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, and cyanosis.

It is important to note that these symptoms might vary from person to person. The symptoms of common cold and flu are similar during the early stages of infection. Therefore, physicians need to examine patients thoroughly to avoid misdiagnosis.

Complications

Complications might arise if influenza is not diagnosed and treated early enough. The illness can either worsen other conditions or progress to more serious illnesses. Common complications include dehydration, ear infections, bacterial pneumonia, and sinus infections (“Flu symptoms and complications,” 2018). Flu can also worsen chronic medical conditions that include asthma, diabetes, and heart failure. Other complications associated with the illness include myocarditis, myositis, and heart attacks (“Flu symptoms and complications,” 2018). Influenza complications are common among children aged between 6 months and 4 years, with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, and adults over the age of 65 years.

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Treatment

Influenza antiviral drugs are the most common form of treatment used in the treatment of flu. These drugs are grouped into two classes, namely neuraminidase inhibitors and M2 protein inhibitors (Wang & Tao, 2016).

Examples of neuraminidase inhibitors include zanamivir, oseltamivir, peramivir, and zanamivir. These drugs have been shown to eradicate certain symptoms. However, they do not eliminate the risk of developing complications. The M2 inhibitors stop the replication of the influenza virus (Wang & Tao, 2016). They are effective against Type A virus. Physicians recommended the intake of fluids, adequate rest, and the avoidance of alcohol and tobacco for influenza patients. In certain cases, physicians recommend the use of painkillers to alleviate symptoms such as muscle aches, headache, and other body aches (Wang & Tao, 2016).

Demographic of Interest

Vaccines and antiviral medicals are available for the treatment and prevention of influenza. However, the illness exerts a significant toll on global morbidity and mortality. Statistics released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC show that approximately 15 percent of the United States population contracts influenza every year and the illness causes about 500,000 deaths annually (Wang & Tao, 2016). Between 3 and 5 million cases of severe influenza are reported annually around the world, with the majority of cases found in developing countries (Fischer, Gong, Bhagwanjee, & Sevransky, 2014).

In the US alone, the mortality rate is roughly 36,000 deaths (Wang & Tao, 2016). The illness is most prevalent among the elderly, children, individuals with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women (“Influenza,” 2018). In addition, individuals with weak immune systems are at high risk of contracting the disease. Increased exposure places health care workers and health care practitioners are at high risk of infection because of their interactions with patients. Seasonal epidemics are common during winter in temperate climates (Wang & Tao, 2016). However, epidemics have been reported throughout the year in tropical regions.

Reporting

Influenza is a reportable disease. However, only the total number of cases is reported. Health care providers are required to report to the CDC when the disease is diagnosed by physicians or laboratories within one hour (Wang & Tao, 2016).

Health Determinants

The determinants of health comprise the social, environmental, economic, and behavioral factors that affect the health of individuals and communities. The state of the environment, how people behave, their access to health care services, genetics, and education level have an impact on the health of individuals (Wang & Tao, 2016). The health determinants of influenza include the environment, behavior, and economic factors. The influenza virus thrives in cooler regions. Therefore, higher rates of incidence are reported in tropical regions. Behaviors such as coughing and sneezing with an open mouth as well as poor hygiene increase the risk of contracting the illness (Wang & Tao, 2016).

Economic factors such as trade and travel enhance the transmission of flu around the world. Moreover, economic constraints increase the severity of the disease in developing countries because of the lack of access to health care services (Wang & Tao, 2016). A poor health system plays a key role in the development of the disease because outbreaks progress to epidemics due to a lack of disease-control resources.

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The Epidemiologic Triangle

The epidemiologic triangle is made up of three elements: host, agent, and environment. Each of these elements plays a distinctive factor in the development of influenza.

Host

Human beings are the primary host for influenza. Individuals with compromised immune systems are the most suitable hosts as the illness can progress from mild to severe quickly. Animals and birds are also hosts. For example, strains such as H1N1 and H5N1 are found in birds and animals respectively. In 2009, a new strain of H1N1 influenza from pigs infected humans and caused more than 200 million infections (Wang & Tao, 2016). That was the first influenza pandemic to occur in the 21st century since the 1918 outbreak that had a mortality rate of 2-2.5% (Wang & Tao, 2016).

Agent

The agent for influenza is the influenza virus that is transmitted from infected to healthy individuals through tiny droplets of respiratory fluids. These droplets are released when talking, coughing, or sneezing. The virus has several strains due to the high rate of mutation. The emergence of a new strain of Type A virus can be the cause of an epidemic.

Environment

The key environmental factors that influence the development of influenza include climate, the presence of animal carriers, and sanitation. As mentioned earlier, the influenza virus thrives in cooler climates. Individuals who come into contact with carrier animals become highly susceptible to infection (Wang & Tao, 2016). A common source of infection is objects and surfaces. The virus can be transmitted from surfaces to healthy individuals through physical contact. Therefore, it is important to keep the environment clean.

The Role of a Community Nurse

The primary role of a community nurse in the control of influenza is the investigation and reporting of the incidence of the illness in the community. For example, a nurse is responsible for collecting data regarding the number of cases reported and the most affected group. The data is then forwarded to the organizations that are responsible for the prevention, control, and eradication of influenza.

Another role of the nurse is to augment research activities by supplying data that is used in risk assessment and the determination of the efficacy of various disease control strategies. Moreover, the data is used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment remedies and prevention methods. Community health nurses also conduct patient follow-up to ensure that treatment instructions are followed and evaluate the recuperation process. Awareness creation is an important action in the control and prevention of diseases. Community health nurses educate the public regarding the proper control and prevention of influenza (Wang & Tao, 2016).

They share the information that they collect with the public through workshops and campaigns. The main goal of awareness is to sensitize people about the risks of influenza, causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention. The nurses also educate the people regarding the importance of vaccination and the various ways through which infection can occur.

Responsible Organization

Families Fighting Flu, Incorporated (FFF) is an organization that fights influenza. It is a national nonprofit organization that raises awareness regarding influenza and the importance of vaccination (“Families Fighting Families,” 2013). It was founded in 2004 and comprises health care practitioners and families that have lost love to the disease or that have experienced a case of severe illness (“Families Fighting Families,” 2013).

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Members of the organization share their experiences with influenza to raise awareness and receive support from the organization to ensure that other people do not undergo similar experiences. In addition, the organization aims to urge the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to adjust current immunization recommendations to include older children (“Families Fighting Families,” 2013).

The mission of FFF is to save lives and reduce hospitalizations by preventing the spread of influenza. The organization uses funds from donors to educate the public and finance advocacy programs (“Families Fighting Families,” 2013). Every year, FFF organizes a campaign to fight influenza to prevent childhood illness and death through education and vaccination.

Influenza’s Global Implication

According to the WHO’s statistics, between three and five million cases of severe illness are reported annually. Moreover, the illness is responsible for between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths every year. In that regard, the illness causes loss of life and increases the cost of health care. Influenza control and prevention present a significant healthcare burden through hospitalizations and treatment. There is also economic loss due to employee absenteeism (“Influenza,” 2018). The impact of influence is more severe in developing countries due to the scarcity of resources for the treatment and control of the illness. In such countries, there is poor health care infrastructure, shortages of health care providers, and vulnerable populations have limited access to antiviral mediations Fischer et al., 2014).

Conclusion

Influenza is a viral respiratory disease that is caused by the influenza virus. Human beings are the primary hosts of the influenza virus that exists in three types, namely Type A, B, C, and D. Types A, B, and C are found in humans while type D is found in animals. The symptoms of infection range from mild to severe, and they include headache, runny nose, sweat and chills, sore throat, muscle aches, and coughing.

These symptoms are observed two days after infection as the incubation period of the virus lasts approximately 24 hours. If the illness is not diagnosed and treated early, it might lead t complications that include asthma, viral pneumonia, secondary bacterial pneumonia, sinus infections, and cardiovascular problems. Treatment of influenza involves the administration of antiviral drugs such as zanamivir, oseltamivir, peramivir, and zanamivir. Several factors, including poor hygiene, behavior, and access to health care services influence the development of the illness. Influenza has a greater impact in developing countries than in developed countries.

References

Families Fighting Families (FFF). (2013). Web.

Fischer, W. A., Gong, M., Bhagwanjee, S., & Sevransky, J. (2014). Global burden of influenza: Contributions from resource limited and low-income settings. Global Heart, 9(3), 325-336.

Flu symptoms and complications. (2018). Web.

Influenza (Flu): Disease burden of influenza. (2018). Web.

Wang, C., & Tao, Y. J. (Eds). (2016). Influenza: Current research. Norfolk, United Kingdom: Caister Academic Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, July 10). Influenza: Treatment and Prevention Methods. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/influenza-treatment-and-prevention-methods/

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