By Dr Om Shrivastav, Infectious Disease Expert
Influenza, in spite of being an infection that has been recognised as a scourge for centuries, is a formidable illness affecting and killing hundreds of thousands globally every year. This is a consequence of a complex set of factors, some of which are clear, like antigenic shift and drift, or the global movement of surface proteins every few seasons, and some which are not so clear, for instance why influenza behaves differently in different hemispheres, northern and southern, and what is the impact of the environment.
So what can be done? Is it preventable? No. But with some measures its impact can be minimised. You ought to be minimising contact during your peak symptoms, which will last from three to seven days, though a state of exhaustion may stay on for few weeks. Rest, rehydration and pain relief are the mainstays during the infective phase. Vaccination is of utmost importance and the vaccine should include protection against Influenza A, Influenza B, and H1N1, if indicated. In high risk patients like those with diabetics, children, elderly people, patients with cancer or those on steroids and pregnant women vaccine is recommended yearly under supervision of your doctor.