The Infectious Influenza Virus

What is influenza (flu)? This is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

People who have the flu often feel a feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (very tired). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. These symptoms were experienced by my kids and me. They just got out of the hospital last evening while I was not confined because no one would take care of them if all three of us were hospitalized. I received the same medication they have; just an out-patient.

Prior to this incident, I attended a seminar about Business Proposal Preparation for one week at a hotel in Davao City. The venue was not inside the hotel but in a separate location; say about 50 meters away. We walked this distance daily. From the hotel to the venue, the temperature was a mixture of too cold, too hot and then too cold. During our last day, I experienced a runny nose and a slight fever. When I arrived home, I was really very tired and sick. So, my kids took care of me. Unfortunately, during my second day at home, my son got a fever and then my daughter was infected too. Since they had a very high fever, I really confined them to a hospital for proper medication. For almost a week, we stayed in the hospital and only last night that we were released. But still, my kids were not feeling well nor do I despite the heavy dose of antibiotics.

Unknowingly, most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

Complications of the flu include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Anyone can get the flu even healthy people. Serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick like people who are 65 years and older; people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease; pregnant women; and young children.

It is very difficult to distinguish the flu from other viral or bacterial causes of respiratory illnesses on the basis of symptoms alone. There are tests available to diagnose flu. But the most important step in preventing the flu is to get a flu vaccination each year.

I also realized that when you are infected with the flu, you need to stay away from other people so that you cannot infect them too. The spread of this virus is very fast. So, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent hand washing can also help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses.