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It's Not "Just" The Flu

Seniors Should Take Precautions & Treat This Malady Seriously

Influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by a variety of viruses. The flu (for short) comes with varying degrees of discomfort.

Many experts believe that the flu is spread most often by the exchange of droplets containing the virus. Infected people commonly release droplets through sneezes, coughs, and even talking. The virus then enters a new victim through mucus membranes of their eyes, nose, and mouth. In addition to direct transference, hands often touch something hit by a droplet. When those hands touch the eyes, nose, and mouth, an infection occurs. (That's why hand washing is so important.)

The elderly are at a greater risk of suffering from complications with the flu, and dying from the flu. This is often due to weakened immune systems, reduced cough/gag reflexes, and the combination with chronic illnesses. So seniors should take the flu and avoiding the flu seriously.

A sneeze is one way to spread the flu. A virus hitching a ride in the mucous expelled by the sneeze can (directly or indirectly) find its way to the next victim.

Flu A, B, C's

Symptoms

There are three main types of influenza virus. Some of these microscopic rascals change or mutate. When this process is abrupt, it is called an antigenic shift. When new strains are created over time, the process is called antigenic drift.

  • Type A - Typically the most severe flu symptoms. Found in humans and animals. Responsible for large epidemics. Constantly changing with both antigenic shift and drift.
  • Has many subtypes based on two surface proteins - hemagglutinin (H) with 16 subtypes, neuraminidase (N) with 9 subtypes. H1N1 is a Type A flu.
  • Type B - Typically less severe symptoms than Type A, but can still be harmful. Found only in humans. Does not cause pandemics. Changes slowly through antigenic drift.
  • Type C - Milder symptoms that both Type A and Type B. Only found in humans. Does not cause epidemics.

The flu can bring on a number of symptoms that may appear with various levels of intensity.

  • Fever and chills. Nausea and diarrhea are possible, but not as common among seniors.
  • Aches and pains that are often severe. Headaches are common, too.
  • Extreme exhaustion at the start with fatigue that can last 2-3 weeks.
  • Dry coughing, which can become severe. Also, general chest discomfort.
  • Sore throat is possible (not real common).
  • Runny nose is possible (not real common).
  • Potential complications.
  • Dehydration.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Worsening of other conditions that include lung problems and heart disease.
(Sources: WebMD.com, CDC.com, SeniorDirectory.com)