Winter is here and so is influenza, the infectious disease that is commonly characterized by general fatigue, fever, and sore throat. Influenza, also known as the “flu”, is often mistaken as the common cold because it presents with similar symptoms.
However, it is important to understand that influenza and the common cold are two different medical conditions and this is based on the fact that different viruses are involved in each illness. Several over-the-counter medications thus indicate in their packaging that their formulation helps those with cold and flu symptoms, since influenza is not the same as the common cold.
New Influenza Information
We often hear in the news of a new influenza epidemic happening in various parts of the world. Sometimes this happens in Asia and sometimes we hear of it from North America. Influenza can be deadly, especially when an infected individual has a weak immune system that could help his or her body to combat the symptoms of the infection. It also helps that an infected person seeks medical attention as soon as possible, in order to receive supportive treatment for the symptoms of the cold and flu.
The Serious Threat – the Flu
The serious threat that influenza poses on human society is based on the ability of its virus to change genetic features, allowing these to go undetected by the immune system. It is helpful to understand that our immune system is responsible in producing antibodies, which are proteins that identify foreign cells and microorganisms that may be circulating in our bodies. In the case of the influenza, which has the capacity to change its features at a rapid pace, our immune system is not quick enough to identify this virus in our body to destroy it. This does not mean that our bodies are poorly functioning, these are functioning the way they should be, but the virus has adapted ways in changing its features faster than we had ever imagined.
The Flu Virus – The Flu Shot
In response to this continuous threat of influenza epidemics, scientists and researchers around the world have taken tremendous efforts in developing a “universal” flu vaccine that would hopefully prevent the occurrence of future epidemics. This universal flu vaccine is based on the findings on various flu virus strains that have been reported from around the world. For example, the latest flu epidemic occurred in 2009, which involved the flu virus H1N1. Despite its recent occurrence, this same strain also resulted in a flu epidemic in 1918. In addition, other flu virus strains were involved in earlier flu epidemics, such as the H3N2 strain during the 1967 epidemic and the H2N2 strain in 1958.
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The design of the universal flu vaccine will thus take into account all the features of each strain that has ever been documented to affect human health. Scientists have extensively studied each of these strains that have previously caused cold and flu symptoms in millions of people around the world, and thus they have gained the knowledge on the possible features that could be present in the next wave of flu infections.
The Universal Flu Vaccine
The development of a universal flu vaccine is thus aimed to prevent the spread of the virus in society by equipping the body with antibodies to combat this microorganism. An effective universal flu vaccine will thus be associated with lower and possibly minimal cases of this infection, and hopefully result in zero deaths in society. Aside from receiving this universal flu vaccine from our clinics in the future, the simple use of the cold and flu medication may also help relieve symptoms of discomfort among infected individuals. The release of a universal flu vaccine may also decrease the fear among people regarding infectious diseases that often spread during the winter season.