Apr 7, 2008, 9:29 AM
Seasonal cold and flu diseases in The Gambia
During the rainy season in The Gambia in particular in the month of September and October with extremely high temperatures and increasing humidity there are increasing of seasonal disease such as malaria, eye infection colds and flu so called "Fresh cold" by some people affect the health of significant number of adults, chronically ill old people and particularly very young children who may even end up to lose their lives.
We invite Dr. Hassan Azadeh and adviser to Health Matters to focus on most common symptoms and complications of seasonal diseases and medical advice.
Dr. Azadeh what is influenza (also called cold and flu)?
Influenza, commonly called "the flu" or as used the word here in the Gambia as "fresh cold" is caused by the influenza virus, which infects the respiratory system (nose, throat, lungs). Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu causes illness and life-threatening complications in many people in particular young children and people with long term diseases; suffering from asthma, diabetic, high blood pressure and heart diseases.
How the Influenza Virus is passed around?
The main way that influenza virus spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of cough and sneezes. (This is called "droplet" spread.) This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled (usually less than 3 feet) through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Influenza virus may also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and than touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else's mouth or nose) before washing their hands.
How long is a person with flu virus contagious?
The period when an infected person is contagious depends on the age and health of the person. Some young children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for longer than a week.
Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons can still spread the virus to others.
How to know if you have Flu?
Symptoms of influenza can start quite suddenly one or two days after infection. Usually the first symptoms are chills or a chilly sensation but fever is also common early when infected, some as high as 39oC similar to malaria disease.
* Body aches, especially joints and throat
* Persistent dry coughing and sneezing
* Extreme coldness and fever
* Extreme headache, tiredness and muscle ache
* Irritated watering eyes
* Dry mouth and dry skin
* Occasional nausea and vomiting in children
* Stomach Symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults. You must note that children could develop all the above symptoms and in addition also can have the mentioned stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Although the term "stomach flu" is sometimes used to describe vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea, these illnesses could caused by certain other viruses, bacteria, or possibly parasites, and are rarely related to influenza.
What are the flu symptoms different from Malaria symptoms?
Some of Malaria symptoms are quite similar to Flu or colds such as headache, join pain, fever but there is no obvious cough, sour throat and respiratory illnesses. Please note that the additional symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea in young children could be further symptoms of a viral infection such as flu and colds too. However, it is strongly advisable to perform the malaria test by children suffering from flu symptoms to establish the correct diagnoses.
Anyone can get the Flu, but the disease is more severe for some people
Complications of Flu can include pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart problems, asthma, or diabetes. Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks. I always remember a German saying that if you suffering from cold you have two choices;
- Seeking for a Doctor who prescript medicine, your recovery will take one week.
- Resting, drinking plenty of liquids, avoid smoking, alcohol and taking vitamin C and pain relieves your recovery will take 7 days.
But be aware that some people can and perhaps will develop life threatening complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the Flu.
Millions of people worldwide getting infected by the flu virus every year and some develop life-threatening complications. Exact number of how many people die from Flu can not be determined but there some studies show that an average of about 37,000 people per year in USA die from influenza complications and more than 200,000 have to be admitted to hospital as a result of the illness.
The Flu can make long term health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the Flu, and people with long term heart disease and having high blood pressure may also worsening of this condition that is triggered by the Flu. In Africa where a significant number of young or older people suffering from sickle cell diseases must be taken extra care.
How do I find out if I have the Flu?
The fact is that it is very difficult worldwide to distinguish the Flu from other viral or bacterial causes of respiratory illnesses on the basis of symptoms alone. A test can confirm that an illness is influenza if the patient is tested within the first two to three days after symptoms begin. This test is not available in the Gambia and I strongly recommend in long standing symptoms to see a Doctor or some experienced Medical professionals for advice and necessary treatment.
What is the difference between a common cold and the Flu?
The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illness but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Cold are usually milder than the flu. People with
Colds are more likely to have a running or stuff nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.
What you should do if you get the Flu?
Rest, drink plenty of liquids, take some vitamin C as tablet or eat oranges. Certainly avoid smoking; alcohol and be aware that is a congestions disease and make sure that you avoid transfer it to any member of your family in particular your children and also anyone else too.
Take medication to relieve the symptoms of headache, join pain and muscle ache such as paracetamol. Children and teenagers with flu symptoms (particularly fever) should avoid taking aspirin during an influenza infection because doing so can lead to a rare but potentially fatal disease.
You need to know that flu, colds are caused by a virus, so antibiotics (like penicillin) don't work against influenza. However, bacterial infections can occur at the same time or follow an influenza infection. Your immune system is like an invisible shield that protects you from invading bacteria and viruses. The problem is that stress, a poor diet and unhygienic environment can weaken the immune system and increase your chance to get infected. Seek advice from a Doctor or other medical professional by long standing serious symptoms.
The qualified and trained Medical Staff at "BAFROW" Clinics are delighted to advice you on seasonal diseases and to perform the necessary laboratory tests. Further information are offered at Hospitals, Clinics, Health centres and Dr Azadeh 7774469.