What is the Flu?

The flu is the popular name given to the influenza disease, an infectious condition that can afflict humans, birds and mammals alike. Actually, flu is not caused by a single virus, as is the case with most other diseases. Behind it, there is an entire family of influenza viruses, called the Orthomyxoviridae family which can cause distinct types of flu with weaker or stronger characteristics.

In addition, this family of influenza viruses is constantly evolving, so the agents keep mutating into newer, more powerful or cunning forms. The virus adapts to the body of the afflicted, so that it will cunningly avoid his immune systems on some occasions, triggering the disease. It should be noted that, if left untreated, the flu can be extremely dangerous, even deadly.

The symptoms of flu

The symptoms for most flu types are roughly similar, but each new virus may bring additional effects to the body. Still, the most common ones include severe coughing, extreme coldness (combined with shivers), high fever, nasal congestion, muscular aching, irritated eyes, sore throat and a general state of fatigue and nausea. On particular cases of flu, the symptoms may include vomiting, headaches, loss of smell, sore joints, heavy sneezing and so forth.

The difference between flu and the common cold

The problem with treating flu is that the above-mentioned symptoms are easily confused with the symptoms of other, less powerful diseases such as the common cold. The same symptoms on flu however, will act out quicker and stronger than the similar common cold symptoms, giving the sufferer even less time to treat himself efficiently. Actually, the viruses causing influenza flu and common cold come from completely different ballparks and theres no connection between the two diseases except for the shared symptoms.

Flu seasons

As with most viral diseases, flu is favored by some external weather and season factors. Influenza usually reaches peak prevalence during the winter, especially “wet winters”. However, on a global scale, the Northern and Southern hemisphere have winter at a different time of the year, so it is acknowledged that the flu has two seasonal peaks each year. In relation to this fact, the World Health Organization (WHO), with the help of the National Influenza Centers (NIC) produce two anti-flu vaccines per year, in order to cope with both peaks.

The Northern Hemisphere peak is during January or February, but some virus versions tend to find it more suitable to spread during the change from winter to spring. The rainy, often changing weather is perfect for the virus to start its attack and this period is coped with the “clothing problem”. This problem appears during the spring, after people have gotten used to wearing heavy cold-proof clothing.

At the first sign of relative spring heat, clothing changes radically to lighter accessories and this radical change makes it easier for the virus to spread. In some areas that are close to the tropics, the flu peak is considered to be all through the year, so these are the most likely to be hit by a pandemic.