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Influenza Basics: Understanding the Different Types of Flu

different types of flu

Influenza is a common illness spread during the fall and winter months. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of flu!

Getting to Know Influenza

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It’s a contagious disease that usually spreads through droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Flu viruses can also be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces, then touching your mouth or nose.

While the flu is typically mild, it can sometimes lead to serious complications, especially for young children, older adults, and people with chronic health conditions. In rare cases, the flu can even be fatal. Here’s more information on the different types of flu.

Types of Influenza

There are four main types of influenza viruses: A, B, C, and D. Among these, influenza A and B viruses are the most common types that cause illness in humans.

  • Influenza A virus: This is the most common type of flu virus and the one responsible for pandemics. Influenza A viruses can infect animals, including birds, pigs, and horses. These viruses can mutate easily, giving rise to new strains that can cause widespread outbreaks.

  • Influenza B virus: This type of flu virus is less common than influenza A but can still cause significant illness. Influenza B viruses mutate less frequently than influenza A viruses, so outbreaks tend to be less severe.

  • Influenza C virus: Influenza C viruses typically cause mild illness and are not associated with pandemics.

  • Influenza D virus: Influenza D viruses primarily infect cattle and have not been known to cause illness in humans.

Catching the Bug?

Here's the illnesses that are currently cycling through Houston and other major cities!

Symptoms of the Flu

The symptoms of the flu can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)

In most cases, the flu symptoms go away within a week or two. However, some people may experience complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or ear infections.

Treating the Flu & When to Seek Medical Attention

The best way to prevent the flu is to get an annual flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is most effective when administered in the fall, before the flu season begins. Other preventive measures include:

  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces

If you are experiencing flu symptoms, it is important to stay hydrated, rest, and consult your doctor if need be. Over-the-counter medications can help relieve symptoms such as fever, pain, and congestion. However, you should seek immediate medical attention if you:

  • Have a fever of 103°F (39°C) or higher
  • Have difficulty breathing
  • Are experiencing severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

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