Influenza, commonly known as “the flu”, is an infectious disease generally caused by viruses. The viruses responsible for causing the flu during viral outbreaks are very contagious and they can easily be contracted by entering in contact with infected people. Flu viruses are airborne and they can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing or simply by breathing the same air with contaminated individuals. You can also acquire flu indirectly, by entering in contact with contaminated objects. Thus, impeccable hygiene during flu seasons is recommended as an effective means of preventing infection with flu viruses.
Although most people experience no problems in overcoming seasonal maladies such as influenza, the elderly are very susceptible to developing serious complications such as bronchitis, otitis, heart disease and pneumonia. In the case of people with already existent conditions (asthma, chronic bronchitis) and people with weak immune system, flu can degenerate into serious pulmonary diseases such as viral pneumonia. Considering the fact that flu viruses primarily affect the respiratory system, people with respiratory sensibilities are exposed to a high risk of developing pneumonia during the flu seasons.
Pneumonia involves inflammation and infection of the lungs that triggers an overproduction of mucus at the level of the respiratory tract. Common symptoms of pneumonia are: difficult, shallow breathing, chest pain and discomfort that intensify with deep breaths, wheezing, exacerbated productive cough and moderate to high fever. Doctors sustain that the occurrence of pneumonia is strongly related to previously acquired infectious diseases such as the flu, which can degenerate into a wide range of complications. There are many forms of pneumonia, most of them triggered by viral infectious agents. Some types of pneumonia are caused by the same viruses responsible for causing influenza or other common seasonal maladies.
Statistics indicate that around 30-50 million Americans are confronted with influenza during winter outbreaks. While most of these people have no difficulties in coping with the illness, the elderly and people with special conditions (weak immune system, already-existent respiratory affections) often develop serious complications, requiring hospitalization. Recent studies indicate that influenza accounts for more than 115.000 hospitalizations in the United States each year. Viral pneumonia and other serious diseases associated with complicated flu are responsible for causing 20.000 annual deaths.
It is important to note that common medications and remedies used in the treatment of flu can’t prevent or overcome viral pneumonia. Pneumonia is a serious infectious disease that requires rigorous treatment with specific medications. If you experience possible symptoms of pneumonia, it is very important to quickly contact your doctor in order to receive the correct medical treatment.
Considering the fact that flu and other seasonal contagious diseases can trigger exacerbated symptoms and lead to serious complications in certain categories of people, it is best to take measures in preventing the occurrence of such maladies in the first place. Doctors strongly recommend people with pronounced susceptibility to infections to get the influenza vaccine every year, before flu outbreaks. Flu vaccines can also prevent against certain forms of viral pneumonia that are caused by common flu viruses. However, flu shots can’t prevent the occurrence of bacterial or atypical pneumonia, which require a different type of vaccine. In addition to the influenza vaccine, the categories of persons exposed to a high risk of developing pneumonia should receive a pneumococcal vaccine as well. A single dose of pneumococcal vaccine offers lifetime protection against various forms of pneumonia and the vaccine can be administered at any time of year.