Viral Influenza is a highly contagious disease that affects between three and five million people worldwide each year according to a 2009 World Health Organization report. Annual winter month epidemics result in the deaths of 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide.
Those most often affected by viral influenza are the elderly, the immunologically compromised and young children. Symptoms may include cough, fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, fatigue, and an overall feeling of physical unease.
Animals can in fact cause influenza outbreaks to humans and have in the recent past. In 2009 a viral influenza originated from a combination of birds, swine, and humans in Mexico known as H1N1. Fortunately the mortality rate was much lower than past viral influenza outbreaks but was declared a pandemic in June of 2009.
There are basically three main types of seasonal Viral Influenza - A, B, and C. ‘A’ can include several sub groups such as H1N1, H3N2, H2N2, and H1N2 just to name a few. ‘B’ has one species but mutates often. Flu vaccines have been developed each year and are used in developed countries to help reduce the risk of contracting two sub types of viral influenza of A and one viral influenza B strain. The vaccine has to be redeveloped every year or two because the viral influenza evolves rapidly. Influenza ‘C’ virus has only one species and can cause severe illness and local epidemics, although not very common, it mostly affects children in the form of a mild disease. Influenza ‘C’ is also known to affect dogs and pigs. No vaccine has been developed for type ‘C’ influenza.
Viral Influenza is spread through the air from other infected individuals that cough or sneeze and spew virus filled droplets into the air. Individuals within an enclosed area such as an office, clinic, school, nursing home, or even a hospital are highly susceptible to ingesting the virus filled droplets into their bodies through the eyes, nose, or mouth and contracting viral influenza. Droplets can settle on surfaces as well, and those who come in contact with the surface unknowingly touch their eyes, nose, or mouth and ingest the infectious germs.
The prevention of spreading and contracting this seasonal flu can include covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, staying home and away from others while ill, frequent hand washing before and after touching the face or ingesting food, avoiding frequent touching of your eyes, nose, mouth, and sanitizing surfaces, air purification/filtration, and vaccines can all aid in the reduction of viral influenza outbreaks.