Given the recent increase in cases of people with influenza A or Influenza in the AMBA and in several provinces in the center and north of the country, the head of the Buenos Aires Ministry of Health, Nicolás Kreplak, said: “We identified an increase in cases of H3N2 flu , unusual for this time of year. It is something that has also happened in countries in the region such as Brazil. We have a commitment from the Ministry of Health of the Nation that the vaccine will arrive at the end of the month and we will be able to start inoculating against the flu, starting with health personnel and the groups at greatest risk.
What is influenza
The infectologist, doctor of Medicine and scientific researcher Antonio Montero (MP 8.249), explained: “Influenza or the flu is a disease acute respiratory infection, extremely contagious and of global importance, which for centuries has caused epidemics and pandemics in humans, pigs and birds”.
According to the specialist, the flu is a seasonal disease, except in China where it circulates throughout the year. “With the beginning of autumn, the first cases that flare up at the beginning of winter are noticed,” he warned.
Influenza is a serious disease and causes between 290,000 and 650,000 deaths per year globally in the periods between epidemics, and this number is much higher in the case of influenza epidemics or pandemics. Approximately 20% of children and 5% of adults develop Influenza A or B each year.
“Although most cases of influenza resolve spontaneously, the possibility of lower respiratory tract complications (influenza and bacterial pneumonia), as well as the ability to precipitate cardiac and pulmonary complications in chronic patients with chronic comorbidities make influenza a dangerous disease, capable of periodically collapsing health services, with a heavy annual burden in terms of costs and deaths,” he warned.
How is the flu or Influenza transmitted?
Montero specified that influenza viruses are transmitted from person to person, mainly through coughing and sneezing of infected people. These droplets are a few microns in diameter and are expelled during coughing fits and sneezes.
“The disease is transmitted by contact with drops of saliva expelled when coughing or through contaminated elements such as surfaces, cutlery, light bulbs, dishes and much less by airborne transmission as is the case with covid, so that prevention lies, first place, in vaccination and also in social distancing to avoid being hit by the drops of saliva expelled by the sick”, he said.
In this sense, the infectologist recommended “coughing into the elbow crease to limit the spread of these drops, washing your hands frequently, not sharing cutlery, plates, or other utensils such as light bulbs.” And he clarified: “The chinstrap also plays a certain role for prevention.”
How is the flu diagnosed?
According to Montero, the disease is easy to diagnose. “Unlike other respiratory viruses such as the common cold, the flu never begins with respiratory symptoms such as sore throat, but with flu-like symptoms such as malaise, weakness, breakdown, muscle aches and fever,” she explained.
In addition, he warned that the beginning is always “brutal and instantaneous.” “One or two days later the cough and other respiratory symptoms appear. Headache (headache) is also a prominent symptom. And the most frequent complications are pneumonia and sinusitis. The chart lasts about seven days,” she noted.
Who is most vulnerable to the flu?
The infectologist clarified that people over 65 years of age, as well as the immunocompromised, must imperatively be revaccinated every year since they are vulnerable to the flu. So are pregnant women and mortality in this group is higher.
“There is also a relationship between the flu and myocardial infarction. Not because the flu causes heart attacks per se, but because the stress it puts on the body is such that it can precipitate a heart attack that would otherwise be quick to occur in the face of intense stress due to severe coronary disease,” he warned.
In addition, he warned that the virus has an envelope made up of hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). “There are numerous hemagglutinin molecules, but only those containing type 1, 2, and 3 hemagglutinins can exhibit epidemic behavior, while all others can cause isolated cases,” she explained.
The importance of vaccination
For Montero, the best measure in the winter prevention package is to get vaccinated against the flu. This will help prevent the disease or at least minimize its effects. It is also a way to reduce the chances of getting the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously.
“In the southern hemisphere, influenza vaccination should be carried out in the highest risk groups before April, because the risk of contagion is greater as autumn approaches. So, in my opinion, the increase in cases at this time of year is a relatively normal phenomenon, ”he concluded.