Posted: March 24th, 2023

Influenza

Description of Influenza

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Influenza is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system. The agent attacks the lungs, nose, and throat. Sneezing, coughing or talking when one has the flu sends the virus into the air. The droplets are transmitted through the air from the infected person to others. A healthy person can inhale the contaminated air and get infected. The germs can also be left on objects, such as a handkerchief or a phone, from where another person picks them. In addition, the disease can be transmitted through handshake (Banning, 2013). When a person has the virus, he/she can transmit it a day or so before appearance of the symptoms. The same can happen five days or more after the signs have become evident.

Flu can have similar symptoms like a common cold; sore throat, sneezing, and running nose. However, unlike the latter, the flu has a sudden development.  The common symptoms of flu include fever, chills and sweats, headache, weakness and fatigue, dry, persistent cough, aching muscles, sore throat, and nasal congestion. Children could experience nausea and vomiting (Banning, 2013). The symptoms manifest a few days after the host comes into contact with the virus.

There is a common belief that the signs of influenza will go away even without treatment. Nonetheless, failure to get treated can cause fatal complications. Among the common ones are ear infections, bacterial pneumonia, and sinus infections. Flu can also make chronic clinical problems worse; for instance, asthma, diabetes, or congestive heart failure (Banning, 2013). The infection can cause other diseases of the lower respiratory system like pneumonia and bronchitis.

Antiviral medications targeting influenza are commonly used to treat the disease. According to the CDC, the drugs are a critical addition to the vaccine in controlling the disease. Neuraminidase inhibitors are among the groups of drugs used to treat the disease (Banning, 2013). However, there are many other drugs and combinations that are effective in the treatment.

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In a yearly outbreak, the disease is experienced across the world. In a year, there are about three to five million reported incidences of the disease. Also, between 250,000 and 500,000 people die as a result of the disease. Most of the deaths occur during the winter when the prevalence rates are very high (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Outbreaks occur anytime in the equatorial regions, but mostly in winter in the southern and northern regions. Among the most affected and likely to die of a flu attack are the old, children, and those whose immunity is compromised by other medical conditions.

Influenza is a reportable disease, but not compulsory in all jurisdictions. Not all cases are reportable, but seasonal influenza reporting is required. Different states have guidelines on the way this should be done. Reporting is made to the Communicable Disease Control Unit. The agency works 24/7 to receive and react to the reports (Malani & Laxminarayan, 2011). The process is initiated by health care providers, including the physicians in making an initial diagnosis of the disease. Depending on the nature of the infection, the provider should report within one hour of the diagnosis.

The Determinants of Health

The factors are those which explain why some people become sick while others are healthy. The determinants are discussed in five categories, including social factors, policy-making, health services, biology and genetics, and individual behavior. Policies made within a community play a role in the health outcome of the people (Masic, 2018). If they are created towards promoting healthy living, less people are likely to suffer from diseases such as flu. The opposite is also true for communities that lack effective policies to prevent and control communicable diseases.

The social determinants of health relate to the condition of the living environment. The factors include the socio-economic conditions and the nature of the environment such as cleanliness and safety. It is generally agreed that poor neighborhoods are more prone to health problems (Masic, 2018). Flu is not an exception to this evidence. Poverty has an impact on the kind of nutrition people have access to. Lack of proper diet affects immunity and hence increasing the risk of becoming sick. Environments which are not clean are also a risk factor to the development of the disease. The flu virus thrives in environments which are dirty.

Access to quality healthcare is an important factor in maintaining the health of a community. In the environment where health services are inadequate, people are at a high risk of becoming sick. The factor plays an important role in the spreading of flu which is a communicable disease. When one person becomes sick and is not treated in time, more people will become infected.

Some biological and genetic determinants play a role in the possibility of a person becoming sick. Some populations are at a greater risk than others because of their genetic makeup (Masic, 2018). For instance, the elderly are genetically disposed to poor health and at a greater risk of acquiring infections. The same applies to children and those with lower immunity because of other diseases.

Individual behavior is another important predictor of the development and spreading of flu. The disease is usually spread faster where people have poor personal hygiene. It is recommended that when one is suffering from the disease, there should be a high level of personal care to prevent it from spreading (Masic, 2018). When coughing or sneezing, it is recommended that one should cover the mouth to prevent transmission of the disease. People should also avoid such behaviors like touching personal handkerchiefs. It is also important to wash one’s hands regularly with clean water and soap.

The Epidemiologic Triangle

The triangle is a tool used by scientists to study health challenges. It plays a role in understanding communicable illnesses and the way they are spread. The vertices of the triangle represent three elements in the development and spreading of the disease. The first corner represents the agent responsible for causing the disease (CDC, n.d). The microbe, in this case, is the influenza virus. The virus comes in two types; influenza A and influenza B. However, there are many other subtypes of the virus. It is what is ordinarily known as the germ, which is picked, resulting in development of the disease.

The second one is the host, the organism that harbors the infection. The host, in this case, is either human or animal from where the virus is able to thrive to the point that it will cause an infection (CDC, n.d).  It is the organism that will become sick because of the infection or just a carrier of the infection. The influenza virus takes host in a human and can remain there for a while before the symptoms become evident. Different hosts react differently to the infection, explaining why even symptoms of the disease differ from one person to another. Animals are usually used as the carriers of the flu virus. In addition, some types of birds are the carriers where the virus resides in their intestines until it is shed. The virus can leave the bird’s body through feces, saliva, or nasal secretions.

The last one is the environment, the external factors responsible for causing or transmitting the disease. It is the favorable conditions, which are not within the host but allow the transmission of the disease (CDC, n.d). The environmental factor that allows the thriving of the flu virus is the season of the year. In most regions, the virus becomes more active during the winter because of the cold and chilly weather.

Available considerations in as far as the disease is concerned is to get vaccinated against the infection. The process allows boosting the immunity in order to prevent the infection. Vaccinations make the hosts unfavorable for the virus. Another consideration is the importance of avoiding exposure to cold, especially during winter. Other interventions include maintaining a clean environment and seeking medical care immediately the symptoms become evident in order to prevent massive spreading of the virus.

The Role of Community Nurse

The nurse has the important contact with the members of the community and stands the best chance to identify the occurrence of influenza in the community. The health care provider has the first contact with the sick, and the first person to realize the possibility of an outbreak. Identifying a case of the disease necessitates timely reporting for effective control measures to be implemented. Reporting plays the role of ensuring that further spreading of the disease is prevented (Malani & Laxminarayan, 2011). Since the community nurse plays the surveillance role, he/she will realize the onset of a possible outbreak. The nurse has a central part in protecting the community through fast response. It is plausible to note that when control measures are timely, there will be prevention of a high disease burden and the possible deaths from infection.

To effectively perform the surveillance role, the nurse should be proactive in collecting data. When reporting, it helps to have the correct number of identified cases of influenza. The information will also help to record epidemiology. The data is available at the state and national level as it is collected at the community level. Hence, agencies such as CDC rely on proactive community nurses to provide the data (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016). The data provided to the organizations is also analyzed in a manner that can be well understood, explaining an additional role of the community nurse (Malani & Laxminarayan, 2011). The nurse does not stop at the point where the disease is identified. Follow-up is critical when dealing with communicable diseases. Even after the outbreak is under control, it is critical to revisit the community to ensure that there are no untreated cases. Failure to perform the follow-up could leave the disease to spread again with an even greater impact.

The Organization for Influenza Control

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the organizations responsible for the prevention and control of influenza. The organization works with other establishments, including the world health organization to implement global efforts in addressing the communicable disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). The organization’s global reach is based on the realization that the disease affects all parts of the world. Therefore, efforts to control its spreading should also be universal. The organization plays the role of the repository of the data collected from different parts of the country and the world to establish when and where immediate action is necessary. Reporting is the source of this information. The information is used to develop effective measures to control the spreading of influenza. It is also responsible for developing preventive measures. When the disease is prevented, it does not have a huge impact even if there is an outbreak.

CDC implements globally coordinated efforts in the development of influenza vaccine and educating the masses on its use. Epidemiologic and virologic surveillance is among the roles of the organization in conjunction with the World Health Organization. Among the roles of such programs is to select and develop influenza vaccines. The programs are not only meant to prevent occurrence of an epidemic, but also for pandemic preparedness. They achieve the objective through monitoring the trends in the infections. For example, they promote use of the vaccine in areas where there is a high probability of an outbreak based on seasonal indicators. The program will prevent the impact of the disease because even if there is an outbreak, the magnitude will be less than if there were no vaccinations. The CDC’s Influenza Division achieves this objective in the United States where the infections peaks in winter (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Concerted efforts are put in the days leading to the season to control the infections and minimize the impact in case of an outbreak.

Global Implication

Influenza affects all parts of the world with implications relating to burden of disease and the cost of care. Past trends have indicated that the disease spreads very fast internationally. In seasonal epidemics, particularly, the disease causes a huge economic burden to treat and control. The direct cost is related to the resources necessary to provide care and other healthcare resources. There are other indirect costs such as lost productivity. The compounded global effect is huge. Approximately US$ 71-167 billion annually was the economic cost of influenza epidemic in the United States. The cost only reflects the situation in the U.S., indicating the seriousness of the global impact of the disease (Peasah, Azziz-Baumgartner, Breese, Meltzer & Widdowson, 2013). The efforts to control the disease and its impact are global in nature. The World Health Organization initiates programs that are implemented at the national level. However, the effectiveness of such programs depends on the national policies and cultures. Some countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa do not make the vaccines mandatory. In fact, some cultures do not even believe in health care and do not seek care for influenza episodes.

Influenza is not endemic to a particular area. However, it is seasonal, affecting different regions at various times of the year. It is not known why the outbreak occurs in a seasonal manner instead of being uniform around the year. Winter is not experienced uniformly in all parts of the world. Every year, there are two seasons of influenza (Peasah et al., 2013). The northern and southern regions have serious winter seasons, which are the time when the disease occurs. In the regions along the equator, the disease occurs throughout the year. Surveillance data indicates that the disease affects certain regions more than others. It is also difficult to estimate which part will have more cases than others. The World Health Organization is always developing vaccines for different types of flu viruses because they do not occur at once and do not affect the whole world at the same time.

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