Influenza Pandemic Prepardness

What is influenza?

Influenza, commonly referred to as the “flu,” is a respiratory tract infection that impacts the nose, throat, and lungs. Often, people incorrectly use the term “cold” to describe an influenza infection, even though the symptoms differ significantly. In cases of influenza, a high fever is usually present, whereas it is rare in colds. Influenza typically comes with general aches and pains that can persist for two to three weeks, but these symptoms are usually absent or mild in colds. On the other hand, a runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat are common cold symptoms but are rarely associated with influenza.

While for most individuals, influenza is an unpleasant experience, it can, in some cases, become a severe or life-threatening illness. It may lead to serious complications such as bronchitis or secondary pneumonia, which could require hospitalization.

How is influenza spread?

Influenza is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person, primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Each year, approximately 10 to 20% of the population contracts influenza, typically during the winter months. Influenza epidemics happen annually, but their extent and severity can vary widely.

What causes influenza?

Influenza is caused by a virus. Viruses are the smallest form of life and can only reproduce in the living cells they infect.

There are three types of influenza viruses: influenza A, B, and C. Influenza A can infect both humans and animals, while types B and C are primarily restricted to human beings.

Influenza A viruses are responsible for annual epidemics and occasional pandemics.