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What types of flu are there and which ones can affect you?

Month of January. High season in the health calendar. As is usual at this time, the drop in temperatures is the perfect breeding ground for flu viruses to wreak havoc on the Malaga population. The result? A sharp increase in patients in consultations at health centers and in hospital and out-of-hospital emergencies, where doctors are overwhelmed these days. In the midst of the flu epidemic outbreak (in the first week of 2018 alone, 79.67 cases per 100,000 inhabitants were recorded in the province) we review the ‘abc’ of this pathology. Do you know how many types of flu there are? Which are the most dangerous? And those that can affect you? We clarify doubts with the help of the World Health Organization -WHO- and the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians!:

What is the flu?

The flu is an acute viral infection that is easily transmitted from one person to another. Flu viruses circulate throughout the world and can affect anyone of any age. In temperate climates, seasonal epidemics occur mainly during the winter, while in tropical regions they can appear throughout the year. It is a serious public health problem that can cause death in high-risk populations. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection.

Flu or just a cold?

The coordinator of the Infectious Diseases Working Group of the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians (Semergen), Manuel Linares gives the keys: «In the flu, the incubation period is 18 to 36 hours and always causes a very high fever with very intense headaches and muscle pain., especially in the legs and back, and with a frequent cough. Furthermore, the feeling of fatigue is high. However, with a cold the incubation period is somewhat longer than 48 to 72 hours. It causes eye irritation, dry cough, nasal congestion and abundant discharge. “It rarely causes fever,” clarifies this doctor.

How many types of flu are there?: Main differences

There are three types of seasonal flu: A, B and C. They have similar symptoms: they affect the lungs and respiratory tract, causing fever, pain and general malaise. Each year, there are one or two strains of the A virus, as well as a type B strain.

Influenza type A viruses are the most aggressive and harmful of the three and They are further classified into subtypes based on the different combinations of two proteins on the surface of the virus (H and N). Among the many subtypes of influenza A viruses, viruses of subtypes A (H1N1) and A (H3N2) are currently circulating in humans.

Strain A predominates in wild birds and is transmitted through different animal species, including humans. When transmitted, the strain sheds and the virus changes without warning

Type B viruses They can be divided into two large groups or lineages (B/Yamagata and B/Victoria), and are not classified into subtypes. They are the most common among humans and the easiest to control because they do not have a special ability to mutate, which makes the virus stable. The B strain mutates up to three times more slowly than the A strain and therefore humans are able to develop immunity to it from an early age.

Both influenza A and B viruses cause outbreaks and epidemics. And they affect humans. That is why seasonal flu vaccines include the relevant strains of viruses A and B each year to prevent them.

And flu C? As the WHO reminds us, type C viruses They are detected much less frequently and usually cause mild infections, so its impact on public health is less important. It rarely affects adults but can infect children. It does not cause epidemics but can cause respiratory infections and complications.

Stomach flu? What is it?

It is a mere name used by some family doctors (although it is not widespread among the entire profession, as they point out). Sayings Doctors talk about ‘stomach flu’ when it comes to viral gastroenteritis or, what is the same, an inflammation or swelling of the stomach and intestines due to a virus. The infection can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. People most at risk for severe gastroenteritis are young children, older adults, and people who have a weakened immune system.

Main symptoms

Seasonal flu is characterized by the sudden onset of high fever, cough (usually dry), muscle, joint, head and throat pain, intense malaise and abundant runny nose. The cough may be severe and last 2 weeks or more. Fever and other symptoms usually disappear in most cases within a week, without the need for medical attention.

However, in people at high risk the flu can cause serious illness and even death. The time between infection and the appearance of the disease (the so-called incubation period) is approximately 2 days.

This is how it is transmitted

Seasonal flu spreads easily and its transmission is rapid in environments such as schools or nursing homes. When the infected person coughs or sneezes, the viruses are dispersed into the air and transmitted to nearby people who breathe them in. The virus can also spread through infected hands. To avoid this, it is advisable to wash your hands regularly and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

The vaccine, the best prevention

The flu vaccine is prepared each year with the recommendations published by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to data obtained from the flu surveillance system and based on the viruses that circulate in the southern hemisphere, where they begin. before the seasons of that disease. On this occasion, the recommended flu vaccine is again trivalent, that is, it has demonstrated its protective capacity against three strains, two type A and one type B. The Ministry of Health has purchased a total of 213,956 doses this campaign for the province of Malaga. As recalled by the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine is greatly affected by the degree of agreement between the circulating strains and those included in the vaccine. In this regard, they criticize that this year there is no such agreement between the circulating B strain and the one included in the vaccine and remember that the European Center for Disease Control is proposing that member states can use a quadrivalent vaccine that includes both strain lineages. b.