Nov 19, 2009, 4:34 PM
Seasonal cold and flu diseases in The Gambia
Worried about catching the flu? Want to learn some ways to prevent flu? Then read this article to learn more about flu -- what flu is, how flu is spread, and who is at greatest risk for getting flu. Knowledge is power when it comes to preventing flu - and I will help you and your family members to stay well!
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 number of seasonal disease such as malaria, eye infection, and cold. Flu, 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.
Dr. Hassan Azadeh, our adviser, who is also a senior lecturer at UTG and a senior consultant will this week focus on the most common symptoms and complications of the seasonal disease in the Gambia and share medical advice.
The Point: What is influenza (also called cold and flu)?
Dr Azadeh: Influenza, commonly shortened to “flu,” is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring. The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract.
What is the difference between a cold and flu?
The common cold and flu are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse. A cold may drag you down a bit, but the flu can make you shudder at the very thought of getting out of bed.
Congestion, sore throat, and sneezing are common with colds. Both cold and flu bring coughing, headache, and chest discomfort. With the flu, though, you are likely to run a high fever for several days and have headache, malign, fatigue, and weakness. Usually, complications from colds are relatively minor, but a severe case of flu can lead to a life-threatening illness such as pneumonia.
More than 100 types of cold viruses are known, and new strains of flu evolve every few years. Since both diseases are viral, antibiotics cannot conquer cold or flu. Remember: Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections.
A few antiviral medications are available to treat flu. But there are no medications that specifically defeat the common cold. Antibiotics may be helpful if there is a secondary bacterial infection.
How are stomach flu and influenza different?
“Stomach flu” is a popular term but not a true medical diagnosis. It’s not uncommon to mistake gastroenteritis, which is what stomach flu is, for the viral infection we commonly call “flu.” Gastroenteritis refers to inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines). Viruses are the most common cause of stomach flu. With gastroenteritis, you may have symptoms such as abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Symptoms of flu are similar to a cold except flu symptoms are much worse with fatigue, fever, headache, and respiratory congestion. Flu symptoms come on so abruptly that you may know the exact time you first came down with flu.
How is flu spread?
The flu virus is spread from person to person through respiratory secretions and typically sweeps through large groups of people who spend time in close contact, such as in day-care facilities, school classrooms, college dormitories, military barracks, offices, and nursing homes.
Flu is spread when you inhale droplets in the air that contain the flu virus, make direct contact with respiratory secretions through sharing drinks or utensils, or handle items contaminated by an infected person. In the latter case, the flu virus on your skin can infect you when you touch or rub your eyes, nose, or mouth. That’s why frequent and thorough hand washing is a key way to limit the spread of influenza. Flu symptoms start to develop from one to four days after infection with the virus.
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.
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 diarrhoea, 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 diarrhoea. Although the term “stomach flu” is sometimes used to describe vomiting, nausea, or diarrhoea, 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 relievers 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 cannot be determined but 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.
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 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 transferring 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.
The qualified and trained medical staff at any hospital and clinics throughout the country are delighted to advice you on seasonal diseases and to perform the necessary laboratory tests. Call on AFRI- RADIO every Wednesday and listen to Dr Azadeh’s Health Show. You can also send text messages to Dr Azadeh on 7774469, or send email on email@example.com.