Flu is a seasonal disease caused by four to five different types of viruses. The symptoms are slight to severe fever, running nose, throat pain and sometimes loose motion. These are generally self-limiting diseases but in some rare cases, they may turn dangerous. Dr Arun M, RMO, General Hospital, Pala, speaks to Onmanorama about general precautions and medication against flu-related symptoms.
“A person having flu should avoid resorting to self-medication since various viral infections, like dengue, rat fever, etc. may also accompany flu. It's very important to get tested if the fever persists beyond three days,” the doctor says.
While, dengue is a vector-borne disease, which spreads only through the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the flu spreads through droplets discharged from an infected person while coughing or sneezing. Since fever is the common factor, it is not possible to identify the viral infection without testing, Dr Arun says.
According to him, if the fever persists beyond two days, in the case of dengue, changes in blood will start taking place. So, after the third day, a test should be done to check if there is a drop in platelet count. In the case of influenza, there won't be any change in the blood.
“Virus infections can be treated only with anti-vial medicines. We use antiviral medicines very carefully since it's scarcely available. For flu-like infections, symptomatic treatment is administered to patients. The doctor who examines the patient will assess whether the condition is mild, moderate, or severe and proceed with the medication accordingly,” Arun says.
If the patient is diagnosed with a severe condition and is found to have an infection in the lower respiratory tract, he or she will be subjected to in-patient treatment providing antibiotics. “For those with moderate infection, we administer antibiotics and will be kept under constant observation. People with mild infection of flu are given the basic medicines for fever, asked to drink hot water and take rest. Also, using the mask is very important as the infection spreads through droplets. It's advisable to continue Covid protocols against the flu too.
Vaccination against the flu virus
Since the character and form of the flu virus keep changing every season, it's difficult to develop a lasting and effective vaccine for the whole life against it. In countries like the US, different vaccines are taken every six months. Such a scenario is not prevalent in our country. “They are called flu shots. But there is no certainty that they will keep flu at bay as the virus assumes a new form almost every six months. There is also another task of importing the vaccine from abroad if needed. Influenza need not be feared,” he adds.
According to Dr Arun, flu is not a life-threatening disease. It can hardly get dangerous. All one needs is to take rest and consume hot water. It's always better to follow Covid-appropriate behaviours like social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and avoiding crowded places as precautionary measures.
“Visit a doctor if the fever persists. The count in the blood will drop if it's a viral infection and it will increase if it's a bacterial infection. So it can be determined through a blood test. IgM Elisa test can determine with clarity whether it's dengue or not," says Dr Arun.