The flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses that can infect the lungs, nose, and throat. It can cause symptoms such as fever, runny nose, and sore throat that last for up to 8 days. There are approximately 4 million severe cases of the flu each year with over 300,000 deaths annually.
Types of influenza viruses
There are 4 types of influenza viruses (A, B, C, and D). Seasonal epidemics are most often caused by influenza A viruses. The primary reservoir of influenza A viruses is birds but they can also be found in mammals.
Most people with the flu get better on their own. However, some individuals are at higher risk of experiencing complications from the flu. These include seniors, children under the age of 2, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, and people with chronic illnesses.
Complications of the flu
Complications can include bronchitis, ear infections, and pneumonia.
The flu shot is your best defence against the flu and is therefore recommended for nearly everyone 6 months and older. Vaccination is the intentional exposure to antigens in a way that induces the development of long-term protection but does not cause disease. A new vaccine is needed each year because the structures of the virus that attach to antibodies constantly change.
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This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.