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ABOUT INFLUENZA the amanda kanowitz foundation

Influenza is one of the least respected viruses in existence. Anytime most people have a fever, body aches, cold symptoms or a stomach bug, we attribute it to "the flu." In actuality, Influenza is a specific respiratory virus, with multiple strains, that should be taken very seriously - it accounts for approximately 36,000 deaths a year and 114,000 hospitalizations.

This section contains information regarding Influenza symptoms, strains and vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most importantly, we have included emergency signs that may indicate complications - for which you should go to a hospital immediately.

About Influenza
Influenza (commonly called "the flu") is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Infection with influenza viruses can result in illness ranging from mild to severe and life-threatening complications. An estimated 10% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu each year: an average of 114,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications and 36,000 Americans die each year from complications of flu. Influenza is generally more prevalent during cold weather. Accordingly, flu season normally runs from November-March in the US.

Influenza A, B and C
Influenza types A or B viruses cause epidemics of disease almost every winter. In the United States, these winter influenza epidemics can cause illness in 10% to 20% of people and are associated with an average of 36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations per year. Getting a flu shot can prevent illness from types A and B influenza. Influenza type C infections cause a mild respiratory illness and are not thought to cause epidemics. The flu shot does not protect against type C influenza. (Click Here For More Information)

The Flu Vaccine The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each fall. Many people don't understand why it is necessary to get the shot every year. Here's why: The flu is subject to what is call "antigenic drift." These are small changes in the virus that happen continually over time. Antigenic drift produces new virus strains that may not be recognized by the body's immune system. This process works as follows: a person infected with a particular flu virus strain develops antibody against that virus. As newer virus strains appear, the antibodies against the older strains no longer recognize the "newer" virus, and reinfection can occur. This is one of the main reasons why people can get the flu more than one time. In most years, one or two of the three virus strains in the influenza vaccine are updated to keep up with the changes in the circulating flu viruses. So, people who want to be protected from flu need to get a flu shot every year.

The flu vaccine contains three vaccine strains - two Influenza A strains and one Influenza B virus - which are representative of the influenza vaccine strains recommended for that year.

Since the viruses for the vaccine are grown in eggs, production requires a 6-month lead-time. This forces the world-renowned experts from the CDC and World Health Organization to try to predict which strains will be most prevalent over 7 months before the start of flu season. More often than not, their predictions are accurate - or are close enough that the vaccine protects against the minor variations that occur.

Unfortunately, Influenza viruses are constantly changing so it's not unusual for new strains of influenza virus to emerge at any time of the year. This is what happened with the strain of Influenza B that we believe was responsible for Amanda's death. That strain is now included in this year's flu vaccine.

Symptoms of Influenza \ The Flu
Symptoms of flu include fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, are much more common among children than adults.

Emergency Warning Signs

Contact your doctor immediately if even ONE of these symptoms are displayed:

In Children:

  • High or prolonged fever
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color or lip color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Changes in mental status, such as not waking up; being so irritable that the child does not want to be held; or seizures
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but return with fever and a worse cough
  • Worsening of underlying chronic medical diseases (for example, heart or lung disease, diabetes)

In Adults:

  • High or prolonged fever
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest
  • Near fainting or fainting
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Treating Influenza
Four antiviral drugs (amantadine, rimantadine, zanamavir, and oseltamivir) have been approved for treating the flu (Influenza). All of these must be prescribed by a doctor. Antiviral treatment lasts for 5 days and must be started within the first 2 days of illness.

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