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The Influenza Virus

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Submitted By amaier661
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Ashley Maier
ENG lll7-60
26 Sept. 2015
The Influenza Virus We all know that time of year. The time of year when the cold of winter ascends upon us as well as a very common illness known as the flu. Everyone has had this illness at least once in their life, whether they were too young to remember it or if it was just last week. The influenza virus is one of the most common viruses as well as one of the deadliest. People don’t really think about the flu as deadly, but thirty-six thousand people die from the flu each year in the U.S alone. There are also more than two hundred thousand people that are hospitalized because of the flu. The influenza virus is one of the most complicated and unpredictable viruses there is. The Influenza virus can be broken down into three categories. The first category is Influenza type A. Wild aquatic birds such as ducks, geese, swans, gulls, shorebirds, and terns are the natural hosts for all influenza type A viruses. Most people refer to this type of flu virus as the Avian Flu. This type of flu can further be broken down into two different subtypes based on the proteins on the surface of the virus. These subtypes are hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). There are eighteen known HA types and eleven NA types. There are many different combinations of the two subtypes. All known types of type A can effect birds except two different types, H17N10 and H18N11, which have only been found in bats. Only two influenza A virus types are currently circulating among humans. These are H1N1 and H3N2. Influenza A is constantly changing and is generally responsible for large flu pandemics. “Flu pandemics occur when a new influenza (or flu) virus emerges for which people have no or little immunity and no vaccine exists” (Melone). This idea from Melone shows how deadly influenza type A can be. It is the deadliest type of the influenza virus because of the fact that it changes and mutates so often. Every time it mutates, modern medicine has to develop a new vaccine to protect the world from another pandemic. Influenza type A is responsible for all the pandemics that the world has overcome. The other two categories of the influenza virus are types B and C. While type B is considered not as severe as type A, there has been instances where this type has been as bad as or worse than type A. In 2014, influenza type B was worse than H1N1, which is a type A influenza strain. This is the only instance ever found where B was deadly for adults. Normally type B is only deadly for children, while type A is deadly for adults. In this case, the two types were equally the same. “No significant differences were seen in the proportion of hospitalizations with an intensive care unit (ICU) by virus type. Length of hospital stay was similar for the two virus types, as were the proportion of deaths” (Schnirring). While type B can be deadly, it is not divided up into other types and it does not cause pandemics. The last subtype of the influenza virus is type C. This is the mildest subtype of the flu and it is not considered a threat at all. It only rarely infects people and it tends to only cause a mild respiratory illness. It is not likely to ever cause a pandemic in its entire existence. These two types of the influenza virus aren’t studied as much as type A because of how little threat these types hold. We can see the severity of the influenza virus when we look at all the pandemics it has caused. The most severe flu pandemic ever was the 1918 flu pandemic, which is most commonly known as the Spanish flu. This illness came on quickly. People were all of a sudden sick and that is what made this pandemic so severe. People who caught the Spanish flu didn’t die from the disease itself, but rather from the complications caused from it. It is estimated that fifty million people died from the complications the Spanish flu caused. Six hundred and seventy five thousand of those people were in the U.S. “What made this flu different from all other flus was a dramatically higher fatality rate, plus the fact that while ordinary flus claimed casualties among the very young and the very old, this virus was especially deadly to young adults between the ages of 20 and 40” (Latson). Latson is showing the real reason behind why this strain was so deadly. Most of the young adult boys during this time were soldiers in World War I. That means that the boys were in very close quarters and were under very stressful conditions. A perfect place for a virus to spread. The influenza virus has changed many times, but the way it is spread doesn’t seem to change. The flu can be spread between two people that are up to six feet away. Flu viruses are spread mainly by fluid droplets made when the inflicted person sneezes or coughs. These droplets get into another person’s mouth or nose. They can also be inhaled into the lungs. A least likely form of spreading the flu is on surfaces. You probably won’t get the flu by touching a surface that someone who has the flu has touched. Most healthy adults are able to infect other people one day before their flu symptoms start showing up. They are still able to infect people five to seven days after their symptoms go away. This means that just because you don’t have symptoms, doesn’t mean you aren’t contagious. The best way to avoid getting the flu is simply by washing your hands frequently. The second best way to avoid getting the flu is staying away from those afflicted with the flu and getting your flu shot every year. While the flu shot isn’t a hundred percent effective, it could protect you from getting the deadly strain of the flu that is circulating around at the time. The influenza virus is the most misunderstood and deadly viruses around today. While most people think the flu is very similar to the common cold, they are wrong. While the symptoms are very similar, the cold won’t kill you, but the flu could. The flu virus is the one thing that modern medicine has to constantly keep up with or another flu pandemic could occur. We are lucky because of how advanced medicine is today. Most people don’t even have to worry about the influenza virus killing them because most people have access to healthcare and vaccines. The flu will always be around and it will always be a constantly moving target for modern medicine.

Works Cited
"How Flu Spreads." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 15 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.
"Influenza Type A Viruses." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.
Latson, Jennifer. "What Made the Spanish Flu so Deadly?" Time. Time, 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
Melone, Linda. "The Truth About Flu Pandemics." Everyday Health. Everyday Health Media, 9 Sept. 2009. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.
Schnirring, Lisa. "CDC: Don't Take Influenza B Lightly in Adults." Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. University of Minnesota, 5 May 2014. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.
"Type C Influenza." Right Diagnosis. Health Grades, 13 Aug. 2015. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.
"Types of Influenza Viruses." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 19 Aug. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.

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