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THE FLU A H1N1
Annie Cloutier Ph.D.
Microbiologist, Neurophysiologist

You think you might have the flu? Be careful! Very often, the term "flu" is misused. Thus, before saying out loud that you have the flu, it would be wise to be able to differentiate between the flu and the other most common disease of the respiratory system: a cold!

Both the flu and the cold are caused by viruses. That is, in fact, their only similarity! The virus is not the same for both diseases. The flu is caused by the influenza virus while more than a hundred different viruses can give you a cold. These are from different families, but the main ones are from the rhinovirus, which means "virus of the nasal pits" according to the Greek word "rhino" meaning "nose". Thus, the symptoms will be different according to each, since the body will react differently to the virus. A cold is rather minor and will last for about one week. The symptoms are, of course, unpleasant but not really serious. The flu generates a stronger defensive reaction and so, the symptoms are more intense and serious. It can last few weeks. Please refer to the table below to compare both diseases.

Differences between Influenza (Flu) and Cold

Symptoms

Flu = Virus Influenza

Cold = Virus Rhinovirus and others

Fever

Common Between
38°C and 40°C

Sudden onset
Lasts 2 to 5 days

Rare

Headache

Common and sometimes severe

Rare

Aches and pains

Common and sometimes severe

Rare

Severe fatigue

Several days Can sometimes last longer

Rare

 

Nausea and vomiting

Common, especially in children under 6 years of age

Rare

Nasal congestion and discharge

Rar

Common

Sneezing

Rares

Common

Sore throat

Rare

Common

Chest pain

Common and sometimes severe

Sometimes Mild to moderate

Cough

Common Lasts 1 week

Common, but mild or moderate

Reference: http://www.msss.gouv.qc.ca/sujets/prob_sante/influenza/index.php?influenza_cest_quoi_en

What do the letters and numbers mean following the word flu?  The "A" indicates from what family (type) of influenza is this virus.  The "H" and "N" are named according to the sub-family of the virus, determined by some specific characteristics of it. Thus, the virus coming at first from the pigs got genetically mutated and has been transmitted to the Human. The A H1N1 strain contains human, pig and avian genes and so, does not resemble the other human virus H1N1 normally in circulation. Therefore that strain is new. Moreover, the influenza A H1N1 is not within the same family that the other flu virus that we all heard about not so long ago concerning the chikens and birds (avian flu), the influenza H5N1, which can only rarely be transmitted to humans.

The best way to prevent any disease, including the flu A H1N1, consists of  having good sanitary habits. Anyone should know that this type of virus can survive for many hours depending of the environment were it is found. Indeed, it can survive few minutes on the skin, up to 12 hours on tissue or paper and up to 48 hours on hard surfaces like door handle or faucet sink! Knowing that, we realize how much it is important to clean well all surfaces frequently touch by many people or to clean often when we, as well as someone close, are sick. Just as reminder, the regular soap and cleaning products are perfectly fine. No need for an antibacterial product since it will kill only the bacteria and not the viruses! It would then not be effective for the flu. A disinfectant like a bleach solution (1 part of bleach for 50 part of water) would be as effective. Consequently, wash your hands frequently and properly with regular soap and clean all surfaces where viruses could hide. Example: door handle, phone, computer keyboard, toilet flush, switches, etc.

For your hands, do you really think that using instant hand sanitizer is enough? In fact, it is much better than nothing, but nothing compared a good hand wash with soap. Unfortunatelly, the instant hand sanitizer will mostly kill the bacteria and some other germs on your hands and yet, only if you are using a certain quantity of it and scrub your hands correctly. The water and soap are better because they permit to take off all the dirt and the micro-organisms on your hands, which means both bacteria and viruses. Naturally, the way you wash your hands can make all the difference. Do you know the trick with the song "happy birthday"? The duration of this song is the time needed for a good hand wash. In addition, time will seem not as long since you will be humming a merry tune!

For more information, please do not hesitate to consult the following web site. It is full of clear and practical information.

www.pandemie.gouv.qc.ca

Annie Cloutier Ph.D.
Microbiologist, Neurophysiologist

 

 

 

 

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