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Influenza is a disease caused by a virus. This pathogen is very special, because it is able to change its structure continuously and rapidly. That’s why it is able to surprise us from time to time. It’s able to make numerous people sick at the same time, causing serious complications. A lot of other viruses can cause similar symptoms, especially during autumn and winter. However, these viruses cannot spread so quickly and the courses of the diseases are not that severe. According to the data of World Health Organization (WHO) the annual number of severe cases requiring hospitalization is between 3-5 million, out of which 250-500 thousand are unfortunately fatal. This number is to think over especially in case of a disease, which can be prevented by vaccination.
Billions of viruses are let into the outside world by respiratory doplets created during coughing, sneezing and speaking. These pathogens infect healthy people by getting into the human body by inhalation or by touching infected objects. Only even a few pathogens are sufficient for the disease to develop, which is in favour of the spreading of flue. This way it’s easy to understand why the majority of the communities (schools, work places, community homes) can get sick from one day to another.
Crowded places – public transport, nightclubs, and communities - are especially in the favour of the spreading of the infection.
The disease may start with general symptoms. They emerge quickly, also in a couple of hours. They are as follows: fever, discomfort, weakness, muscle pain, joint pain, runny nose, sore throat, hoarseness and dizziness. Typical are by 80% fever, discomfort and cough. In case of children vomiting and diarrhoea may occur. High fever can be very risky in case of babies, the elderly and people suffering from chronic diseases, because it endangers the heart, the lungs and can disturb metabolism (diabetes). In these cases the number of complication increases, the disease is present in a more severe form. The disease cures in 1-2 weeks, however, convalescence can take longer.
Closed, crowded areas have to be avoided during epidemic. Sick people should stay at home for a couple of days, bed rest is important. Protect your environment by using tissues or masks when sneezing, or cough. Washing hands frequently is recommended. The most effective way of protection is the vaccination against influenza repeated annually. It’s worth receiving the immunization before the season of the flue, which makes us protected before the epidemic would start.
There are three types of influenza: A, B and C. The seasonal flu epidemics are caused by version A and B each year. Version A occurs among animals (bird, swine) as well, but the disease does not always develop in the species carrying the virus. The vaccination against flue contains 2 A and one B strains each year. These strains are determined by WHO based on analysing the flue epidemics data of the previous year. Practically, it has to be reconsidered each year which strains may cause diseases. This way the experiences of the former season are reflected by the composition of the vaccines of the actual season.
The immunizations available in Hungary only contain inactivated virus cells or some certain parts of it. These do not cause diseases; merely prepare the immune system for the protection against influenza. The reception of the vaccination may be accompanied by some unpleasant symptoms as follows: fever, headache, weakness, discomfort, as well as local redness, swelling and pain at the place of the injection. These phenomena are only temporary, and get better in a couple of days.
The risk of the disease is much greater than that of the vaccination. Therefore the immunization is recommended to everyone above the age of 6 months
Vaccination cannot be given to people who are severely allergic to eggs, or if medical intervention was necessary after receiving the former immunization. Request the immunization as soon as possible, since it takes 2-3 weeks for the vaccination to take effect, and it is not predictable when the epidemic would start. It is worth asking for the immunization against influenza during the epidemic season as well, if it could not have been given earlier. Consult your doctor before receiving the vaccination!