Influenza: The Facts and the Myths

by Shaun Damon

Influenza is an infection that most of us are not as enlightened about as we tend to think we are. The reason what most of us are confused and believe ourselves to have adequate knowledge about the condition can be attributed to the wide usage of the term 'flu', short for influenza. influenza is an infection that affects the nose throat and lungs. An influenza infection can be a lot more serious than most of the conditions to which we ascribe the term flu, as it can significantly increase the risk of other infections and pneumonia. The risk of complications is pretty high for senior citizens, very young kids, and those suffering from a weakened immunity, lung or heart problems, and chronic diseases. Influenza is a lot more serious than most of us give credit for and it still causes a significant number of fatalities each year, even in developed nations. While the influenza epidemics and high death tolls from influenza may have passed with the early 1900s, the infection is still not one that can be treated lightly.

Most of the misconceptions of the influenza virus can be attributed to the fact that the terms influenza and flu are used interchangeably, and the term flu is widely used to refer to almost any mild viral infection, from'stomach flu', to a common cold.

Here are some of the common myths and facts about influenza:

Myth: Influenza is thought to be a mild and non-threatening viral infection by many.

Fact: Influenza may not be the most dangerous of the infectious diseases, but it is certainly not a mild condition. The fact that it causes 250,000 and 500,000 deaths annually around the world should make this evident enough. Seasonal influenza is of a greater risk to the aged and extremely young or those with a weakened immunity, while pandemic H1N1 influenza is a greater risk to young people.

Myth: Another common myth is more personal, with many individuals believing that they have a natural immunity as they have never succumbed to the infection before.

Fact: The fact is that the strains of the influenza virus change or mutate every year, so it is not necessary that your past immunity will protect you against a variation of the virus in the future.

A lot of the other myths concern the vaccination, which offers the best possible protection against influenza.

Myth: One myth that has been widely circulated and is based on unscientific and unverifiable data is that the vaccine can itself cause influenza. This myth largely stems from frivolous journalism and irresponsible writing that creates panic and poses a risk to the public.

Fact: While it is true that there have been cases of a vaccine causing an infection, this is only possible in the case of live vaccines. The vaccine for influenza only contains dead specimens of the virus that can not cause an infection.

Myth: Another common misconception is that the vaccine causes severe side effects.

Fact: The vaccine for influenza is actually very safe and produces nor reactions in most people, apart from the swelling and redness at the site of penetration with the syringe. Muscle aches and tiredness may be observed in those getting vaccinated for the first time, and while this can be mistaken for flu, have no doubt that the symptoms of influenza last much longer and are a lot more severe.

Myth: You can get the vaccine but you'll still get the infection.

Fact: The effectiveness of the vaccine may not be 100%, but it is quite high. It is most effective for those below 65 years of age, living a healthy life. The vaccine's effectiveness therefore depends largely on age and health of the individual and the strain of the virus, matching with the one in the vaccine.

Myth: The vaccine causes a weakening of the immune system.

Fact: On the contrary the influenza vaccine actually strengthens and boosts your immune system against the influenza virus.

Myth: The vaccine provides protection against all types of flu.

Fact: Colds and coughs or stomach aches and diarrhea caused by bacteria or viruses are not connected to influenza and the vaccine can offer no protection against these as they are not connected to influenza.

Some other myths that do have some basis to them concern the safety of administering the vaccine to those suffering from certain allergies or pregnant women. This however would be something that you should bring to the attention of the health care provider, who will then inform you whether it is safe or not.

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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