Types of Influenza

Avian influenza is caused by avian influenza viruses, which occur naturally among birds.
Pandemic influenza causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness that spreads easily from person to person.
Seasonal influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.

For more information about pandemic influenza and Utah’s pandemic planning tools, visit Utah’s Bureau of Epidemiology’s pandemic influenza page.

How Influenza Spreads

Flu viruses are spread through droplets that are created when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. People who are nearby breathe in these droplets or possibly inhale them into the lungs. Sometimes, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.

General Steps to Take If You Get Sick

Influenza Signs & Symptoms

Influenza vaccine is the primary measure to avoid illness from the influenza. However, illness can still occur. The following information may be helpful for those who do get influenza.

1) Be Aware of Common Flu Symptoms

The influenza usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness/weakness (can be extreme)
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Diarrhea and vomiting also can occur, but are more common in children.

These symptoms are usually referred to as “flu-like symptoms.” Many different illnesses, including the common cold, can have similar symptoms.

2) Cold versus the Influenza

The influenza and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them. In general, the influenza is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the influenza. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.

General Steps to Take If You Get Sick

1) If Flu-like Symptoms Develop

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink a lot of liquids
  • Avoid using alcohol and tobacco
  • Consider taking over the counter medications to relieve the symptoms of influenza (but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms)
  • Stay home and avoid contact with other people to protect them from catching your illness.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze to protect others from your germs.
  • Most healthy people recover from the influenza without complications.

2) Look Out for Emergency Warning Signs

There are some emergency warning signs that require urgent medical attention. In children, some emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • High or prolonged fever
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Changes in mental status, such as not waking up or not interacting; being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or seizures
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough; and
  • Worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions (for example, heart or lung disease, diabetes)

In adults, some emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • High or prolonged fever
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest
  • Near fainting or fainting
  • Confusion; and
  • Severe or persistent vomiting.

Seek medical care immediately, either by calling your doctor or going to an emergency room, if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the signs described above or other unusually severe symptoms. When you arrive, tell the receptionist or nurse about your symptoms. You may be asked to wear a mask and/or sit in a separate area to protect others from getting sick.

Special Concerns for People at High Risk

Special Concerns for People at High Risk

Some people are at increased risk to develop complications of influenza. This group includes:

  • all children aged 6 months – 4 years (59 months)
  • all persons aged 50 years and older
  • adults and children who have chronic pulmonary (including asthma) or cardiovascular (except isolated hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurological, hematologic, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus)
  • persons who have immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by HIV)
  • women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season
  • children and adolescents (aged 6 months – 18 years) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who might be at risk for experiencing Reye syndrome after influenza virus infection
  • residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives
  • persons who are morbidly obese (BMI is 40 or greater)
  • HCP (healthcare professionals)
  • household contacts and caregivers of children aged younger than 5 years and adults aged 50 years and older, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children aged 6 months and younger; and
  • household contacts and caregivers of persons with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.

If you are in a group that is considered to be at high risk for complications from the influenza and you get flu-like symptoms, consult your healthcare provider when your symptoms begin.

Some of the complications caused by influenza include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Children also may get sinus and ear infections.

Staph Infection and Influenza

Persons infected with influenza are sometimes at higher risk for developing secondary infections, such as pneumonia or Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.

Click here for more information on Preventing the Flu

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