Frequently referred to as the flu, influenza is a communicable disease which is caused by influenza virus with symptoms being mild or severe. Among the symptoms experienced include runny nose, high fever, headache, sore throat, muscle pains, feeling tired and coughing. After exposure to the virus, these symptoms start to appear after 2 days and may last for less than one week. However, coughing may last for over 2 weeks. Children may pose other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. In adult, nausea and vomiting is a sign of unrelated gastroenteritis. When influenza become complicated, it may lead to viral pneumonia, sinus infection, secondary bacterial pneumonia and may worsen other health problems such as heart failure and asthma. Influenza may become severe if not controlled.
There are 3 categories of influenza viruses namely Type A, Type B and Type C. The disease is spread through the air from relatively short distance sneeze or cough. In addition, it can be spread by coming into contact with virus contaminated surfaces and then contacting the eye or the mouth. A person may be infectious to other either before or during the period the symptoms start to show. To confirm the infection, the virus is tested on the sputum, the throat or the nose although individuals may still get infected even if the results come out negative which can only be determined by Polymerase chain reaction which identifies virus RNA more accurately (Longo, 2012).
Influenza is infectious meaning it can be controlled by observing various practices. Frequent washing of hand diminishes the chance of infection as the virus is incapacitated by soap. Wearing of surgical masks when visiting or being near a person infected with the virus is equally important as a means of protection. Patient infected by the virus are encouraged to cover sneezes and coughs, avoid spitting and avoid smoking. However, observing hygiene and effective sanitation are the most effective means of preventing infections. In case of pandemics, churches, schools and other social spaces should be avoided or closed to slow the spread of the virus (Harper, Fukuda, Uyeki, Cox & Bridges, 2004).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Influenza can be controlled by immunizing those at high risk of being infected once per year. The group are high risk include the elderly, children, people with chronic illness such as asthma and heart disease, and health care workers. However, the vaccine is active for 3 or 4 types of the virus. Influenza virus has a high mutation rate and for this reason, pharmaceutical industry has to create vaccines that offer the best immunity against the developing strains. This is done by formulating the vaccine each season (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009).
To treat influenza, antiviral drugs such as neuraminidase inhibitors and M2 protein inhibitors are used. By eradicating influenza disease, then most of the infections associated with the virus will also be eradicated. Influenza affects all the countries meaning that it is global problem. This also means that it eradication will improve the health of worldwide population. It will save a lot of resources that have been kept aside to fight its spread, to develop the immunizing vaccine as well as improve the condition of patient suffering from other diseases such as asthma and heart failure. Curing of the disease will end patient suffering.
Influenza has a direct cost caused as a result of lost productivity and medical costs. On the other hand, it has indirect costs associated with preventative measures. For instance, in the united states, it accounts for over $10 billion per year, while future estimation of the pandemic shows that it could cost much more in both direct and indirect costs (Brainerd and Siegler, 2003). Future epidemics as one experienced in Spain i918 could cause where 30% of all workers becoming ill decreasing the gross product by 5%. Medical treatment and other costs could total to about $700 billion (Poland, 2006). Preventative expenses are equally high where governments have used billions of dollars to prepare and plan for potential virus pandemics. In case influenza is eradicate, these expenses would be halted.
According to the World Health Organization figures, in each winter, millions of people are infected by the virus and get ill and stop working for about a week. The old may be terminally affected by the illness and at this time, the worldwide death toll exceeds. Young children below 2 year and people with chronic diseases and conditions such as sinus, ear infection, bronchitis and pneumonia may also get complications from influenza. During epidemics, there are severe illness and worldwide deaths may reach 500,000 where in the united states 36,000 fatalities and over 200,000 hospital admissions are recorded with direct association with Influenza. According to Murray, Lopez, Chin, Feehan and Hill (2006), if a strain with related virulence to that of 1918 influenza occurred today, then over 50 million people would be killed. In case the influenza is eradicated, this phenomena could not be experienced.
Influenza eradication is highly unfeasible because of various issues associated with the disease. It has a high mutation rate of the virus which makes it hard to for vaccines to confer protection for more than a years. According to the World Health Organization, new strains of the virus appear each year and pharmaceutical companies must develop a new vaccine for each season. For this reason, there needs to be new research on how the virus can be controlled and end its mutation to new strains.
Brainerd, E. and M. Siegler (2003), "The Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic", CEPR Discussion Paper, no. 3791.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Prevention and control of seasonal influenza with vaccines. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2009. MMWR Early release,58(Early release), 1-54.
Harper, S. A., Fukuda, K., Uyeki, T. M., Cox, N. J., & Bridges, C. B. (2004). Prevention and control of influenza. MMWR Prev Control, 53, 1-40.
Longo, Dan L. (2012). "187: Influenza". Harrison's principles of internal medicine. (18th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill
Murray CJ, Lopez AD, Chin B, Feehan D, Hill KH (December 2006). "Estimation of potential global pandemic influenza mortality on the basis of vital registry data from the 191820 pandemic: a quantitative analysis". Lancet. 368 (9554): 22118.
Poland G (2006). "Vaccines against avian influenzaa race against time" (PDF). N Engl J Med. 354 (13): 14113.
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