diseases

INFLUENZA


Introduction:
This is a very common infection of the respiratory tract, which we usually denote as "flu". It affects all ages and both sexes, attack rate being less among adults than in children.


This infection, as we all have experienced some time during our lives, is very common during the winter season. It usually has a fatal outcome in those persons having a preexisting serious illness or those over 65 years of age.

Definition:
It is ac acute contagious (infectious) respiratory tract infection of viral origin.

Causes and risk factors:
. The causative organism is the influenza virus, which is usually of 3 subtypes: A, B and C; of which epidemics of influenza A virus are very common (about 65%); and those of influenza B virus account for about 30% of the cases.
. Droplet infection is the most common route of spread of the infection (i.e. by the way of infected respiratory secretions.)
. Children under 18 months of age are at a higher risk.
. Persons with diabetes or any other longstanding cardiac disease also belong to the high risk group.
. Working in overcrowded areas increases the risk of transmission of the infection.
. As the poultry animals are the common source of the infection, persons working in the poultry farms are also at an increased risk of attaining the infection

Screening and diagnosis:
. After coming in contact with an infected person, the symptoms start appearing in a susceptible person after a period of 1-3 days.
. The ill health of the person with influenza may range from a mild illness to a rapidly fatal state.
. The onset of the infection is marked by the onset of fever, chills, headache, malaise (general weakness), anorexia (loss of appetite), myalgia (muscular pains), arthralgia (bony pains), vomiting etc.
. Other respiratory symptoms like harsh unproductive (dry) cough, along with rhinorrhoea (profuse nasal discharge) may also appear.
. These symptoms may remain for a period of 1-5 days before they subside, usually for 3 days or so.
. But, many people develop 'post influenzal asthenia', where they have a several week period of weakness after the acute infection.
. Anyhow, if the patient has fever for more than 4-5 days, or it reappears again after subsiding for a few days; complications such as pneumonia, bronchiolitis (inflammation of the smaller airways) should be suspected. The other complications of influenza being myocarditis (sudden onset of chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath); Reye's syndrome (severe nausea and vomiting, any change in the mental state)

Diagnosis:
. The diagnosis is very easy during epidemics.
. But, in individual cases, it may be a bit confusing due to its overlapping with other bacterial respiratory tract infections.
. The diagnosis may be confirmed by isolation of the virus from the nasal secretions, after a few days of the onset of infection. . Serological tests for the detection of antibodies produced by the body in response to viral antigens is also confirmatory.

But, these tests are seldom used, diagnosis solely being made on the basis of clinical manifestations of the infection.

Homoeopathic treatment:
. Homoeopathic treatment aims at increasing the body's disease fighting power. It increases the immunity of the body.
. The course of the illness is shortened, if the patient approaches the physician in time.
. It may also help to reduce the severity of the symptoms and prevent the development of complications.

Patient care:
. The patient should be encouraged to increase the oral fluid intake (water, juices etc).
. Bed rest is advised.
. Mouth wash and saline gargles should be taken for the relief of sore throat.
. The patient should be taught proper disposal of the tissues to prevent the viral spread.

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