Flu Anti-Viral Treatment
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a viral illness that attacks the respiratory system. Serious complications may result, especially in the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Flu is most prevalent during the winter, but since winter happens at different times in the northern and southern hemispheres, there are actually two flu seasons every year.
Globally, as many as 5 million people are stricken with the flu annually over the course of both seasons. Two or three times each century, a particularly virulent strain appears, leading to a pandemic. To be considered a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the disease must be contagious and it must reach most or all of the continents. One of the most famous influenza pandemics was the so-called Spanish flu of 1918 to 1919, which killed an estimated 50 to 100 million people worldwide. More recently, the Asian flu was responsible for approximately 2 million fatalities between 1957 and 1958, and the Hong Kong flu of 1968 to 1969 was blamed for about 1 million deaths worldwide. The H1N1 virus that appeared in 2009 and 2010 was blamed for about 18,000 deaths globally.
Patients are contagious from the day immediately preceding the onset of symptoms until at least five days have passed. Children may spread the infection for as long as two weeks. Contagion is greatest on days two and three of the infection.
Influenza is transmitted by contact with a contaminated surface, such as a doorknob or countertop, or by direct contact, such as a handshake, with an infected person. The virus can also become airborne when an individual who is infected sneezes or coughs, discharging the virus in droplets that others may inhale.
During flu season, good personal hygiene helps prevent transmission. People of all ages should wash their hands frequently, especially after handling items that may be contaminated, such as currency or public light switches. Covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing also helps prevent the disease from spreading.
The first symptoms of flu may be mistaken for the common cold. The patient may have sinus congestion, a runny nose, episodes of coughing or sneezing, a sore throat or a headache. However, a cold tends to start slowly, with symptoms worsening over time. The onset of flu is more sudden. Symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches and chills are typically worse with the flu. In general, patients normally feel much worse with influenza than with a cold. Some patients may also develop red, watery eyes, a rash or reddened skin on the face, nose or throat. Children may experience abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
Because influenza is a virus, it mutates quickly and regroups into different strains. The speed with which a virus may change its form means that a vaccine may only provide complete immunity for a few seasons. The degree of protection afforded depends on how much the virus mutates.
Each year, health officials must predict which particular virus is the most likely to be prevalent. Based on this information, pharmaceutical companies produce the vaccine that offers the best protection for the strain. If a different strain becomes epidemic, it will take approximately six months for manufacturers to produce enough vaccine to inoculate the millions of people who need it.
Once vaccinated, it takes approximately two weeks to receive full protection. Therefore, it is possible to contract the flu during this time even if it is the very strain for which the patient was immunized. Vaccinated patients remain at risk for any strains of flu that were not included in the serum they received.
Some patients react to the vaccine with symptoms that are similar to the flu for which they were vaccinated. However, these symptoms are rarely as severe as the flu, nor do they last as long. In rare, isolated cases, patients have demonstrated allergies, sometimes severe, to either the medium used to cultivate the vaccine or the virus itself.
Most health professionals recommend annual flu vaccines
for children and the elderly, as well as those with suppressed immune systems. People with chronic diseases such as diabetes, bronchitis, asthma or heart disease should also be vaccinated as they are at higher risk for potential complications should they contract the flu. Those whose occupations place them at risk for contracting the flu, such as health care workers or teachers, may also wish to be vaccinated.
Anti-Viral Flu Treatment
Antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu
, may shorten the duration of the flu as well as reduce the risk of complications. For maximum benefit, the drugs must be taken within the first day or two after symptoms appear. However, Tamiflu
may also prevent influenza when taken prior to the onset of symptoms, such as when a patient has been exposed to the virus. Tamiflu
is available by prescription only, but a doctor may prescribe it for the patient to hold in reserve if he is among the high-risk group, traveling to a country where the drug may not be readily available or may otherwise be prevented from seeking medical attention.
Most patients will recover over a period of one to two weeks with just rest, adequate fluid intake and nonprescription medications to alleviate symptoms such as fever or muscle aches. Children and teenagers should not take aspirin for a flu-related fever, because aspirin has been linked to an increased risk of a potentially fatal, albeit rare, disease known as Reye's syndrome.
Flu Online Consultation
For patients who are too ill to visit a doctor's office, or who just prefer a more convenient solution, an online consultation may be an option. To secure an online consultation, patients register with the site and complete an assessment. A doctor then reviews the patient's information and offers a recommendation. If the patient chooses to accept the recommendation, they can then place an order which is delivered the following day.
As part of the consultation, patients enter necessary personal information, answer a few questions regarding their medical histories and report their symptoms. Data is entered on a secure site and encrypted as necessary to keep personal information private. If the doctor needs more information, patients are notified by email to return to the site to provide additional details.