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VOL: 99, ISSUE: 39, PAGE NO: 25


- Influenza, or flu, is caused by the influenza virus.



- The influenza virus was first identified in 1933.



- There are two main types: influenza A and influenza B.



- Influenza A usually causes a more severe illness than influenza B.



There is sudden onset of symptoms. These include:



- Fever;



- Headache;



- Tiredness;



- Dry cough;



- Sore throat;



- Nasal congestion;



- Aches and pains.



- Flu is spread from person to person by droplet infection dispersed by coughing, sneezing or talking.



- A single infected person can transmit the virus to a large number of susceptible individuals.



- Rest.



- Drink plenty of liquids.



- Paracetamol or aspirin.



- Chlorpheniramine at night for congestion.



- Pseudoephedrine (if not hypertensive) for nasal congestion.



- Steam inhalations.



- Saline nose drops for babies (Johnson et al, 2003).



- Antiviral medicines are available on prescription and should be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. They are not a substitute for immunisation (National Institute for Clinical Excellence, 2001).



- Each autumn, there is a national campaign offering flu vaccination to people who are at risk of serious illness should they catch flu. These include all patients who:



- Are over 65 years old;



- Have chronic respiratory disease;



- Have chronic heart disease;



- Have chronic renal failure;



- Have diabetes mellitus;



- Have suppressed immunity.



- Since 2000 flu vaccination has also been offered to all health care workers as a means of protecting patients from nosocomial infection (Harrison and Abbott, 2002).



- On 14 March 2003, the World Health Organization announced the composition of the 2003-2004 (Northern Hemisphere winter) immunisation. The vaccine will contain:



- An A/New Caledonia/20/99 (H1N1)-like virus;



- An A/Moscow/10/99 (H3N2)-like virus (the widely used vaccine strain is A/Panama/2007/99);



- A B/Hong Kong/330/2001 - a B Victoria-like virus;



- The H1N1 and H3N2 components are unchanged and are considered to provide good protection against the new influenza A H1N2 subtype.



- Most people who get flu will recover in one to two weeks, but some people will develop life-threatening complications.



- Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections can all be complications from flu.



- Flu infection can make chronic health problems worse.



- Mastitis in breastfeeding women even with only minimal symptoms.



- Malaria, especially with overseas travel in the last year.



- Meningitis, tell patients to return if symptoms worsen.



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