Everybody knows harmless cold. First he picks his nose and then runs. She shudders, feels bored and beaten. On the other hand, flu is quite different: from now on it is very ill. In just a few hours you can feel high temperature, colds, irritable cough, headache, burns of the eyes and severe bodily pain.
Usually the flu is treated alone. In older and weakened people, a virus infection can be life-threatening. Every year, about 5,000 to 10,000 people die. In the winter 2014/2015. The Robert Koch Institute has even reached 21,300 deaths from flu in Germany. This is the highest value since 1996.
It does not have to be that so many people die of flu. Because there is a vaccine against influenza virus. The vaccine is re-produced annually because the virus constantly changes its structure, mutating it. RKI therefore invites every autumn to vaccinate. Although the vaccine does not provide 100 percent protection against the flu. However, it helps to avoid serious complications.
Kissing in the winter is dangerous
Every year, 10 to 20 percent of Germans are infected in all age groups, and not every infected person is ill. In most cases, the flu is transmitted by gout infection. Viruses are transmitted at the time of sneezing, talking, coughing, kissing. But for some time, they can be kept on contact surfaces such as the door handles and then shifted when handling.
It has been proven that people are touching their face up to a hundred times a day, fingers touching their eyes, nose, and mouth. Through conjunctive eyes or mucous membranes of the nose and mouth, viruses migrate to the mouth and throat area. They colonize the cells of the mucus and multiply in them.
At this early time of infection, those affected do not feel sick. Yet, they are already infectious with their neighbors. They stay there for about three to five days, and then the danger for others is over.
Those who want to be sure they are not infected with flu, should avoid crowding – or a few simple hygiene rules, such as thoroughly washing your hands, pay attention.
Inflammation usually begins suddenly and produces high temperature – the thermometer shows at least 38.5 degrees. Continuous coughs, but no ejection. And they have strong muscles or headaches. Unlike ordinary colds, flu affects not only the respiratory system but also the entire body. Fever, headache, and body fat are caused by the inflammatory substances of the body with which the immune system reacts to pathogens.
Often affected, they feel seriously sick from the very beginning. Circulation fluctuates, dizziness and dizziness can occur. However, it is not always clear to the doctor whether it is a flu. For the disease has many faces; Sometimes it takes quite a treasure without discomfort.
Other signs of flu are:
- Top of the throat
- Pain behind the sternum
- Extreme fatigue
- eye strain
- bleeding from the nose
- sore throat
Especially in elderly people with chronic diseases, flu may develop into severe lung inflammation. It may be a blend of bacterial and viral inflammation – so-called superinfection.
Heart attack can be a consequence of winter influenza
In addition, the flu may cause cardiac arrhythmia, pulmonary edema or, very rarely, life-threatening encephalitis. Complications that develop depend primarily on the general health of the patient.
Experts suggest that patients with cardiovascular disease are particularly vulnerable. This increases the number of heart attacks, especially in the winter months. In half of the patients, the cause of the inflammation of the coronary artery. Such inflammation can be a consequence of the flu.
Therefore, the flu vaccine can also protect against heart attack. Experts believe that the described complications can be reduced by 25 to 80 percent.
Typical flu-like symptoms give the doctor the first indication whether it is a common flu or a flu. But just based on the symptoms, he can not diagnose. If a flu epidemic takes the ground, it's just another hint for it. Certainly the doctor can only be after the examination. Because there are still some agents that can cause similar symptoms. Usually, a general physical examination is sufficient for the diagnosis.
However, if a doctor suspects you have pneumonia or bacterial infection, he will arrange for further investigation. This can be, for example, x-rays or even blood tests. A blood test can determine whether it is viruses or bacteria that are torturing you.
The doctor can also remove some throat secretions. The lab can then examine this smear of so-called antigens. These are viral particles. Quick tests can be used to determine which virus species is in the mucous membrane. However, such tests work only two days after the infection.
Viruses are multiplied
If the infection is already backward, the pathogens from the mucous membrane in the laboratory vessel or egg chicken can be multiplied. Subsequent analysis provides information on what this is. This direct virus detection is not a routine test. It often takes several days and requires a specialized laboratory.
Meanwhile, viral detection uses genetic engineering methods. A special process, the so-called polymerase chain reaction, replicates the pathogenic genetic material. The gene snips can then be analyzed, providing information on the exact type of virus.
Another way of solving the problem is so-called antibody detection. Antibodies are the substances that the immune system has formed, a specific response to certain classes of pathogens. Antibodies can be detected in the blood, preferably between the first and second weeks of the disease.
With flu you can only trust your immune system. It will remove pathogens. Medications can not remove the cause, but just relieve the symptoms. To make your body work well, you should be treated with rest. Professionals recommend staying in bed for three days longer than fever.
They can only support the healing process. For example, it helps in inhaling with chamomile and salty solutions. It calms the inflammation of the airways of the respiratory tract. It is the same effect when you are tossing hot drinks, preferably tea or water. Anyway you should drink enough with the fever because the body loses a lot of fluids during the illness.
In addition, medications can help:
- pain reliever such as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) facilitates pain and reduces the temperature.
- antibiotics they are meaningless with the flu. They do not help against the virus, but only against bacteria. However, if bacteria join influenza viruses and initiate bacterial superinfection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
Drugs that block flu viruses
Your doctor may prescribe substances that can inhibit viruses. That's fine, provided you belong to a risk group. Medicines only work if they are taken no later than 48 hours after the onset of the first symptoms.
For flu, various substances are available as viral blockers:
- Neuraminidase inhibitors: Active substances oseltamivir and zanamivir prevent the spread of the virus. But that almost has no effect on the duration of the illness. In addition, substances have side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, headache. Zanamivir can increase respiratory distress in asthma.
- M2 membrane protein inhibitors: The active substance amantadine prevents the entry of the pathogen into the cell. M2 membrane proteins inhibitors also have side effects such as dizziness, nervousness, sleep disorders and neurological problems. The substance is rarely prescribed because it acts only against type A influenza viruses. In addition, pathogens rapidly become resistant to amantadine. Then the drug does not work anymore.
You can prevent the vaccine. But there is no one-stop protection from the flu. Overall, the number of fatalities can be reduced by more than 50 percent with the help of vaccines. The risk of getting pneumonia falls to half.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recommends a vaccine specifically for people over the age of 60 and children, adolescents and adults with chronic illnesses, and since the pregnancy of 2010. Also, doctors, nurses or teachers, my specialists, should be vaccinated. Since they have many contacts with other people, they can infect or transmit the virus.
The best vaccination time is between October and December. Older people should be aware that vaccines can be less effective and less long-lived than younger adults.
There are no allergy vaccines for chicken eggs!
About two weeks after injection, protection is provided. From time to time, redness occurs at the injection site, some people feel tired, two days later. However, anyone who carries a serious, untreated infection should not be vaccinated against the flu, according to RKI.
Anyone who has ever had a strong allergic reaction to the protein should not get the usual vaccine. Because incubated eggs are used in production.
In most cases, the flu vaccine is paid by health insurance companies.
Stern.de-Professor Winfried Kern from the Freiburg University Hospital answers your questions:
Why can not you simply quit vaccination and if it becomes problematic, do you take Oseltamivir or Zanamivir?
Although the population does not accept a satisfactory flu vaccine, neuraminidase inhibitors are not an alternative. Because they only work if they are taken within the first 48 hours after the onset of the symptoms. In addition, they are controversial because drugs are far from effective, as is always described. Although they inhibit the virus to continue to multiply. This time the disease time is only slightly shortened.
Why does the flu not help with bird flu?
Even influenza is caused by influenza viruses. But they look completely different from the cause of the real flu.
Why does vaccination not protect the elderly so well?
The immune system of the elderly does not respond well to the vaccine and accordingly sends smaller antibodies in the fight against influenza virus.