Influenza, commonly shortened to “flu,” is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring. The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract.
The common cold and flu are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse. A cold may drag you down a bit, but the flu can make you shudder at the very thought of getting out of bed.
Congestion, sore throat, and sneezing are common with colds. Both cold and flu bring coughing, headache, and chest discomfort. With the flu, though, you are likely to run ahigh fever for several days and have headache, myalgia, fatigue, and weakness. Usually, complications from colds are relatively minor, but a severe case of flu can lead to a life-threatening illness such as pneumonia.
More than 100 types of cold viruses are known, and new strains of flu evolve every few years. Since both diseases are viral, antibiotics cannot conquer cold or flu. Remember: Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has chosen the three influenza (flu) viruses for inclusion in the 2011-2012 seasonal flu vaccine based on recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO). Each year, experts from FDA, WHO, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other institutions study virus samples collected from around the world to identify the influenza viruses that are the most likely to cause illness during the upcoming flu season so that people can be protected against them through vaccination.
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