Today I will touch on a health topic since some commentators are asking me about ‘flu’.
2 years ago, I have written 2 posts on the Bird flu. Pls refer to this 2 posts Bird Flu: the threat is real
When we tell our friends that we are down with a ‘flu’, most times, it is not due to Influenza virus that causes the real flu.. Most of the ‘flu’ that we had, and which may have prevented us from going to work for a few days , are actually what we termed as ‘common cold’.
Common cold is due to infection with the rhinovirus. Rhinovirus mutates very fast, and so that we can have repested infections in a span of a few weeks.. We will develop antibodies to that particular strains, but because of mutation, the antibodies developed agains tthe last one will not prevent us from getting a new infection again..So we get common cold again and again , and we attribute it to “flu”.
Actual Influenza infection is much more serious and can be seasonal. In winter months, it can develop from an endemic state ( an ongoing infection within the commnity but not on an epidemic scale) to an epidemic.. It spreads throught the air, through the aerosols that we sneeze or cough out…
Most of us will recover from Influenza attacks, but in some whose immunity are low, such as old and very young, it can kill.
There are a few types of Influenza viruses, Type A ,B,C and afew others.
Influenza can affect other mammals and birds… Normally, animal infections would not affect human and vice versa, but smoetimes, because of mutation and the close proximity, we may have the cross species infections. Cross species infections are usually seriupos, because of lack of herd immunity.
The Avian flu H5N1 is a subtype of Influenza A, which normally affect birds, but have mutated to affect certain uman as well. But luckily, it is a mainly cross species infection and has not changed into human-human infection. But do not discount he possibility of bird flu changing from bird to human to humanto human, It can be deadly , given the lack of herd immunity and once it changes into a human to human infection, an epidemic as well as a pandemic may result, due to the fact that the wrold is now much much smaller and borderless, and spread via ari-travellers will make this a pandemic in no time..
There are vaccines for influenza. But every year, the vaccines produced will be tailored to the existing prevalent strains . Since each year, the strains affecting the northern hemisphere and wouthern hemisphere will be different, so the vaccines produced for Northern areas and Southern areas may differ too..
Vaccinations are advised to be given to those travelling to endemic areas especially the old, the weakened and the young.
But please note that vaccination may not prevent you against other strains of influenza viruses that may be present in the areas that you go to. So it is possible to get influenza even after the vaccinations. But it protets you against few strains that are more prevalent in those areas that you travel to..
For common cold that you and I get a few times a year, unfortunately there are no vaccines, because rhinoviruses mutate too fast for any vaccines to be effective..So until there is an imporvement in antiviral technology, we have to bear with the discort of getting ‘flu’ sickness a few times a year.
The way to contain any spread of influenza , for that matter any viral infection that spred through air 9 through aerosols that we cough or sneeze out, is to quarantine the source . So if you are sick, see a doctor and get away from your office for a few days. Wear a mask like the Japanese . Try your old mum’s recipe of “chicken soup”… Ya, chicken soup…