Part 1 LET’S PREPARE FOR THE FALL & WINTER BUGS. WHO ARE THEY & WHAT ARE THEIR STATISTICS ?

Those bugs that are common in fall & winter  are 2 Viruses =The COLD and THE FLU.

HOW THEY ARE DIFFERENT:

Both influenza and the common cold are viral respiratory infections (they affect the nose, throat, and lungs). Viruses are spread from person to person through airborne droplets (aerosols) that are sneezed out or coughed up by an infected person, direct contact is another form of spread with infected nasal secretions, or fomites (contaminated objects).  Which of these routes is of primary importance has not been determined, however hand to hand and hand to surface to hand to contact seems of more importance than transmission.  The viruses may survive for prolonged periods in the environment (over 18 hours for rhinoviruses in particular=a common virus for colds) and can be picked up by people’s hands and subsequently carried to their eyes or nose where infection occurs. In some cases, the viruses can be spread when a person touches an infected surface (e.g., doorknobs, countertops, telephones) and then touches his or her nose, mouth, or eyes. As such, these illnesses are most easily spread in crowded conditions such as schools.

The traditional folk theory that you can catch a cold in prolonged exposure to cold weather such as rain or winter settings is how the illness got its name.  Some of the viruses that cause common colds are seasonal, occurring more frequently during cold or wet weather.  The reason for the seasonality has not yet been fully determined.  This may occur due to cold induced changes in the respiratory system, decreased immune response, and low humidity increasing viral transmission rates, perhaps due to dry air allowing small viral droplets to disperse farther, and stay in the air longer.  It may be due to social factors, such as people spending more time indoors, as opposed to outdoors, exposing him or her “self” to an infected person, and specifically children at school.  There is some controversy over the role of body cooling as a risk factor for the common cold; the majority of the  evidence does suggest a result in greater susceptibility to infection.

The SIMPLE COMMON COLD:

The common cold (also known as nasopharyngitis, rhinopharyngitis, acute coryza, head cold) or simply a cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract which primarily effects the nose.  There are over 200 different known cold viruses, but most colds (30% up to 80%) are caused by rhinovirusesThis means you can pass the cold to others, so stay home and get some much-needed rest for yourself and not passing it on to others for the contagious period at least.

If cold symptoms do not seem to be improving after a week, you may have a bacterial infection, which means you may need antibiotics, which only kill bacterial infections not viral.

Sometimes you may mistake cold symptoms for allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or a sinus infection (bacterial). If cold symptoms begin quickly and are improving after a week, then it is usually a cold, not allergy. If your cold symptoms do not seem to be getting better after a week, check with your doctor to see if you have developed an allergy or inflammation or the sinuses (sinusitis).

Influenza is commonly referred to as “the flu”, this is an infectious disease of birds and mammals caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae, the influenza viruses.  The most common sign or symptom are chills, fever, runny nose, coughing, aches and weakness to headache and sore throat.  Although it is often confused with other influenza-like illnesses, especially the COMMON COLD, influenza is a more severe illness or disease caused by a different virus.  Influenza nausea and vomiting, particularly in children but these symptoms are more common in the unrelated gastroenteritis, which is sometimes inaccurately referred to as “stomach flu” or “25 hour flu”.
The flu can occasionally lead to pneumonia, either direct viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia, even for persons who are usually very healthy.  In particular it is a warning sign if a child or presumably an adult seems to be getting better and then relapses with a high fever as this relapse may be bacterial pneumonia.  Another warning sign is if the person starts to have trouble breathing.

Each year, 10% to 20% of Canadians are stricken with influenza. Although most people recover fully, depending on the severity of the flu season, it can result in an average of 20,000 hospitalizations and approximately 4000 to 8000 deaths annually in Canada. Deaths due to the flu are found mostly among high-risk populations, such as those with other medical conditions (such as diabetes or cancer) or weakened immune systems, seniors, or very young children. There are 3 types of influenza viruses: A, B, and C. Type A influenza causes the most serious problems in humans and can be carried by humans or animals (wild birds are commonly the host carriers). It is more common for humans seem to carry the most with ailments with type A influenza.  Type B  Influenza is found in humans also.  Type B flu may cause less severe reaction than A type flu virus but for the few for the many can still be at times extremely harmed.  Influenza B viruses are not classified by subtype and do not cause pandemics at this time.  Influenza type C also found in people but milder than type A or B.  People don’t become very ill from this Type C Influenza and do not cause pandemics.

The common cold eventually fizzles, but the flu may be deadly. Some 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized and 36,000 die each year from flu complications — and that pales in comparison to the flu pandemic of 1918 that claimed between 20 and 100 million lives.

The best defense against it:   a vaccine once a year.

References for Part 1 and 2 on the two bugs The FLU and The COLD:

1-Wikipedia “the free encyclopedia” 2013 website under the topic Influenza.

2-Kimberly Clark Professional website under the influenza.

3-Web MD under “COLD, FLU, COUGH CENTER” “Flu or cold symptoms?” Reviewed by Laura J. Martin MD November 01, 2011

4-2013 Novartis Consumer Health Inc. Triaminic “Fend off the Flu”

5-Scientific American “Why do we get the flu most often in the winter? Are viruses virulent in cold weather? December 15, 1997

 

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