Influenza, also known as the flu, is an infectious disease that is caused by the RN viruses, from the influenza virus’s family. Fever, sore throat, chills, muscle pain, tiredness and general discomfort are among the most common symptoms of this infection. This disease may be fatal, especially for the young. There are various types of influenza and are grouped according to their genera.
History of Influenza
Influenza, Infectious disease that affects both birds and humans is also generally known as the flu. An RNA virus (ribonucleic acid) commonly causes influenza. The first case of this disease was an epidemic that started in the Soviet Union and then spread to the rest of Europe, Africa and eventually America. The virus is thought to have been introduced to America as early as America’s European conquest. J. Hugger (1703) was the first man to use the word flu in English, referring to the disease we now know today (Cowling & Peiris 2010). Influenza comes from the Italian language that means influenza that refers to the cause of the disease when translated into the English language.
There are different types of Influenza grading from influenza virus A which consists of H1N1 which is believed to have caused the Spanish flu in 1918 and the Swine flu in 2009, H2N2 believed to have caused the Asian Flu in 1957, H3N2 which caused the Hong Kong flu in 1968, H5N1 which caused the Bird flu in 2004, H7N7, H1N2 (widespread in humans, pigs and birds), H9N2, H7N2, H7N3 and H10N7 (Wilschut, Mcelhaney & Palache 2006). This genus has one species and can cause devastating outbreaks if the viruses are transmitted. This type is also the cause of the most severe diseases in humans. Influenza virus B is less common, and infects humans almost exclusively.
Immunization from Influenza virus B is taken at an early stage. Influenza virus C infects humans, pigs and dogs (Wilschut et al. 2006). This is the less common type and usually causes mild diseases in children, sometimes severe illness and local epidemics.
In the course of this paper, I will discuss the history, symptoms, and likely prevention one can take to reduce risks of contracting H1N1, Spanish flu and SARS.
H1N1 (also known as the Swine flu) outbreaks in the United States were first reported in 1976 when four people were hospitalized, and others died, and because of this, the effort was made for everyone to get vaccinated. But the vaccinations came to an abrupt halt when the Gullain-Barre Syndrome was discovered to be a side effect which resulted from the treatment. 25 people were confirmed to have died from the vaccine and the death rate has spread to a wide population area (Huang, Banner, Fang, Ng, Kanagasabai, Kelvin, & Kelvin, 2011). Another outbreak was reported in 1998, in pigs from different states, and during the year had spread to large pigs’ population within the United States. The recent outbreak was in 2009 reported by the CDC (centres for disease control and prevention). It seems the virus had been transmitted back to humans.
Symptoms of H1N1
The symptoms of swine flu are very similar to cold flu, but there are some different H1N1 symptoms which have been recorded infected beings. Swine flu is a very contagious virus as humans have no immunity towards both bird and pig viruses. Symptoms of H1N1 include Body Aches, Chills, Headaches, Cough, Runny/ Stuffy nose, sore throat, Extreme Fatigue, Diarrhea and vomiting amongst others. Almost all infected cases show at least 3of these symptoms(Huang et al. 2011). Conditions of infected patients deteriorate within 3 to 5 days, and many patients progress to respiratory failure within 24hours.
Prevention and Measures
Some day to day measures that can help prevent or spread H1N1 that have been recorded includes washing hands as many time as possible using soap and warm water. For children below two years, they should avoid taking over the counter cold medication unless prescribed by the doctor. Reye’s syndrome is a rare but infectious disease that can be caused by Aspirins, thus should not be given to those suffering from flu. Therefore, ingredients of drugs should be checked on the labels before taking them.
An estimated 17,000 people died from H1N1 in America in 2009. About 6,390 and 13,170 deaths occurred between the ages of 18 and 64, the CDC reports. There were children between 880 and 1,810, aged 17 and younger. The CDC reports that between April 2009 and April 2010, between 43 million and 89 million people have had H1N1. They predict deaths associated with 8,870 to 18,300 H1N1, as they were better equipped with ready-to-use vaccines (Huang et al. 2011).
An estimated 50,000,000 people died from the influenza epidemic in the world. This was almost a fifth of the population of the world. The Spanish flu is estimated to have caused more deaths than in the Great War (World War 1). The influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster. The Spanish flu remains a mystery, including its origin and what made it so deadly (Moxnes & Christophersen 2008).
Extreme fatigue, fever, headache, and victims turning blue are some of the symptoms that have been recorded. It is said that the 1918 pandemic was so severe that infected persons would cough, have abdominal muscle pain, bleeding from mouth, nose and even ears.
Prevention and Measures
Like other influenza viruses, the virus that caused the Spanish flu has spread in three main routes via direct contact with an infected person’s saliva or mucus, via air-route, and hand-to-body parts contact. Practising proper hygiene and self-care measures would be, therefore, crucial for prevention of infection with the virus causing Spanish flu. Washing hands frequently and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. One should also avoid touching his or her nose, mouth or eyes before washing your hands carefully and thoroughly. Close contact with an infected person should be avoided, especially in crowded areas, which pose a risk on the rapid spread of the disease. Spanish flu can also be transferred via air, so any germs from an infected person can be transferred through sneezing, laughing or coughing.
Approximately 20% to 40% of the worldwide population became ill between 1918 – 1919. An estimated 50 million people died worldwide, and nearly 675,000 people in the United States died from Spanish flu. America started vaccine production in late May 1957 and was available in limited supply by August 1957. Between September 1957 and March 1958, another wave of illness hit America (Moxnes & Christophersen 2008). The 1957 pandemic was not as devastating as the 1918 pandemic, and about 69,800 people in the United States died.
The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak began in Guangdong province of Mainland China. The disease was believed to have come from civets, animals that looked like cats. The risk of being infected with SARS is shallow (McLean, 2005).
Recorded symptoms include headaches, body aches, chills, discomfort, sore throats, runny noses (which appear about 24hours before the fever breaks), diarrhoea, and pneumonia. After the day of infection, patients develop shortness of breath and dry coughs.
Measures and Prevention
Although no cases of SARS have been diagnosed since 2004, these preventive measures can help reduce the risk of contamination the virus if and when there is an outbreak. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, practice clean living even in the workplace, mainly equipment’s and surfaces, cover mouth and or nose when sneezing or coughing, use alcohol-based products to wash your hands, not sharing personal items and requesting for surgical masks and disposable gloves in the workplace (McLean 2005).
The disease has infected and killed more than two thousand people, during an outbreak for nine months, which stopped during the summer of 2003. This was according to the World Health Organization. Ever since there have been reduced cases, and no cases have been reported since 2004.
In conclusion, America has taken a lot of preventive measures to make sure that, during another outbreak, a lot of lives can be spared. Information about when an explosion arouses is accessible through the internet; there are books giving step by step details and vaccines are available at many within every country worldwide. Scientists have perfected vaccines, and these terrible tragedies that happened decades ago can now be avoided even if not 100%, they can be manageable.