Just like the common cold, influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is caused by viruses which infect the upper respiratory system. What makes it different from the common cold is that the symptoms are more severe and can last much longer. The viruses that cause the flu are divided into 3 types: A, B, and C. C-type influenza is usually pretty mild. They may or may not cause symptoms and certainly do not contribute to the public health catastrophes we fear influenza can cause. Types A and B on the other hand are pretty bad and can contribute to epidemics and even pandemics like the one that wreaked havoc world-wide in 1918-1919. What makes the flu such a bad actor is that it changes its genetic make-up from time to time. This is why a new flu vaccine has to be made by the CDC and distributed during flu-season every year.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of the flu can mimic the common cold in that it can cause cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and headaches. But the flu differs in that these symptoms may be more severe and can be accompanied by a moderate to high fever, extreme fatigue, painful body aches, and sometimes (not always) by intestinal complaints such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people who get the flu recover in a couple of weeks to a month (as opposed to a few days to a week with a cold). But some people, especially those with serious chronic ailments, can develop life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and respiratory distress. Many susceptible patients are hospitalized yearly and some even die from complications of influenza.
Can it be treated?
There is no cure for influenza, but smart prevention and early treatment can minimize the severity and shorten the length of time of symptoms. The flu vaccine is strongly advocated in the medical community in the interest of public health. We certainly don’t want a repeat of the 1918 pandemic. That would be bad! If a patient gets the flu, however, there are ways to shorten the length of time and maybe minimize symptoms by taking prescription Tamiflu within the first couple days.
How can MCare M.D. help?
If you think you have the flu, let us know us everything during your meeting with your MCare M.D. doctor. We want to know. Be prepared to tell us when, where, how long…everything. Don’t worry. Everything you tell us is completely confidential. If the doctor thinks that you have an infection that can be treated with prescription medication he or she will send an order to the pharmacy of your choice instantly.