Not the flu is not inevitable : the key to effective protection

Health 17 December, 2017


Published the 17.12.2017 at 10h47


Keywords :


Many respiratory viruses are different from the flu circulating at the same time as the influenza virus in the population. They can cause signs very similar to those of the flu. A lot of people say “be seized” as soon as they are suffering from a fever with sore throat and cough…) and it is difficult for you to make “true” and “false” flus without a throat swab for virus analysis (which is not systematic).
But there are two things that do not deceive. The real flu makes those who are very sick, even the healthy. The sudden onset of signs, as well as the great physical fatigue and muscle who attended are in favor of the flu. If an infection of this type occurs in times of epidemics, it is most definitely a flu.

Mortality under-estimated

The mortality related to seasonal influenza is particularly associated with secondary infections of breathing, especially in the elderly. It exceeds the 600 000 annual deaths in the world. In France, the epidemic of 2016-2017 has been the origin of more than 1,500 hospitalizations in intensive care and nearly 14 400 deaths, mainly in people at risk who were not vaccinated.
In vulnerable people (elderly, immunocompromised, pregnant women, infant…), or having a chronic disease (diabetes, heart failure, respiratory or renal…), the flu is less well supported, it is often more severe and complications can occur : bacterial lung infection severe (” pneumonia “) or a decompensation of an existing chronic conditions (diabetes, respiratory insufficiency, heart or kidney, etc.).

Of the virus which vary in time

The peculiarity of the influenza virus is that it changes every year : mixing with influenza viruses of animal origin, the virus modifies the proteins that are expressed on its surface (” hémaglutinine ” and ” neuraminidase “), which means that it is not recognised by the defence systems of the organism (antibodies and white blood cells). In the case of a minor change, it is an epidemic more or less strong. In the event of a major change, it is a pandemic with very serious risks.
Viruses are described according to their type (A or B) and hémaglutinines (” H “) or neuraminidases that they carry (” N “). In the beginning of the epidemic, there are 3 viruses that have been circulating in the metropolis : the virus A / H1N1 (45 %), influenza A (H3N2) (23 %) and B viruses (25 %), but this situation may change with the spread of the epidemic.
The distribution is therefore different from that of last year, where it was the H3N2 that had been responsible for the epidemic : a virus that had led to many complications in the elderly and impaired.

Vaccination is the primary means of protection

The national campaign of vaccination against seasonal influenza, which began on 6 October, will close on 31 January. The vaccine contains two type A influenza found in the virological analysis of patients today, but also that of type B.
The Directorate-general of health, health Insurance and public Health France remind us that vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself against the flu and limit the complications. Therefore, it is not too late to get vaccinated, because the protection becomes effective in just two weeks.

Of the simple ways based on the risk of contagion

A patient is contagious from one to 2 days before onset of signs of illness, and the rest 1 to 3 days after, sometimes more with a child.
During an outbreak, the influenza virus will infect the patient by the respiratory route. Inhaled with the air infected, the virus will be deposited on the cells lining the surface of the respiratory tract : the throat and the bronchi. It can also be deposited on the hands when we fly, and then on the door handles or the everyday objects and stay alive for a few hours, especially when it’s cold and wet.

  • It is important to wash regularly and carefully with the hands : at a minimum, before preparing food or eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing by putting his hand in front of the mouth.
  • It is better to use a handkerchief disposable to blow nose, cough, sneeze or spit, and it should be discarded immediately after.
  • It is necessary to avoid shaking hands or kiss to say hello.
  • It is better to avoid going out and wear a mask to visit a fragile person.
  • It is necessary to open the windows every day to ventilate and reduce the virus concentration.
  • It is not necessary to touch the eyes, mouth or nose without washing your hands first, especially after an outing.

The particular case of infants

Infants, particularly those less than six months, also have an increased risk of severe complications during a flu.
However, as they cannot yet receive the vaccine, they should be protected by their loved ones thanks to “gestures barrier” : segregation at home during the epidemic, in order not to expose it to sick people in public places or public transport, hand are washed before you do it, or even vaccination of the family.

If, despite all the flu occurs

It is normal to be tired and uncomfortable in the case of flu, and especially after. It is not always necessary to call the doctor who is often overwhelmed in periods of epidemic.
But he should not hesitate to call the doctor in certain risk situations :

  • Pregnant woman ;
  • Influenza in the infant
  • Age greater than 65 years
  • Chronic disease (diabetes, heart failure, respiratory or renal…)
  • Or if the flu seems to be very aggressive :
  • High fever (over 40° C), or poorly supported
  • Uncharacteristic signs : shortness of breath at rest or difficulty breathing, productive cough with expectoration of pus-like appearance…)
  • If there is a sudden aggravation, and in the absence of improvement within 72 h.