For the latest on Seasonal Flu from the Centers for Disease Control, please click the image below:
What are Seasonal Flu, Avian (Bird) Flu and Pandemic Flu?
Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses. Flu viruses are classified as Types A, B, and C; Type A has a number of subtypes. The flu is not the same as the common cold, nor is it related to what is commonly called the “stomach flu.”
Seasonal flu is the term used to refer to the flu outbreaks that occur yearly, mainly in the late fall and winter. It is estimated that between 5 and 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu every flu season. For the most current information regarding Seasonal Flu, click the link above and go to go the Centers for Disease Conrol Influenza web site.
For a comparison of Flu vs. Common Cold symptoms, click here .
Pandemic flu refers to particularly virulent strains of flu that spread rapidly from person to person to create a world-wide epidemic (pandemic).
Bird (Avian) Flu
In nature, the flu virus also occurs in wild aquatic birds such as ducks and shore birds. It does not normally spread from birds to humans. However, pigs can be infected by bird influenza (as well as by the form of influenza that affects humans) and can pass on the flu to humans. In 1997, it was discovered that a virulent bird influenza had skipped the pig step and had infected humans directly, causing a number of deaths in Asia. These instances of bird flu in humans have raised concerns that if this type of flu could at some point be transmitted between people, a new pandemic would occur. Thus, the term bird flu or avian flu is currently being used to refer to a possible pandemic flu.
Overview of the Flu
The flu, like the common cold, is a respiratory infection caused by viruses. But the flu differs in several ways from the common cold. For example, people with colds rarely get fevers or headaches or suffer from the extreme exhaustion that flu viruses cause. The most familiar aspect of the flu is the way it can “knock you off your feet” as it sweeps through entire communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5 to 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu during each flu season, which typically lasts from November to March. Children are two to three times more likely than adults to get sick with the flu, and children frequently spread the virus to others. Although most people recover from the illness, CDC estimates that in the United States more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from the flu and its complications every year.
Flu outbreaks usually begin suddenly and occur mainly in the late fall and winter. The disease spreads through communities creating an epidemic. During the epidemic, the number of cases peaks in about 3 weeks and subsides after another 3 or 4 weeks. Half of the population of a community may be affected. Because schools are an excellent place for flu viruses to attack and spread, families with school-age children have more infections than other families, with an average of one-third of the family members infected each year.
Importance of flu
Besides the rapid start of the outbreaks and the large numbers of people affected, the flu is an important disease because it can cause serious complications. Most people who get the flu get better within a week (although they may have a lingering cough and tire easily for a while longer). For elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses, however, the flu and its complications can be life-threatening.
Source: National Institutes of Health; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases