Definition of Influenza

Influenza commonly known as the flu is an illness of the respiratory system that can be contagious considering that it is caused influenza viruses. The flu can cause light to extreme illness and there are cases so severe that it even can lead to death. People with certain health problems, young children and older people are high risk individuals for developing severe flu complications.

Influenza viruses can have three types: A, B and C. In the United States almost every winter time, flu viruses (human influenza A and B viruses) become prevalent. Almost all people are at risk in getting infected by new and very different influenza viruses that become mutated, armed and/or produced in some pharmaceutical or military centers. When a very large number of people get infected with a flu virus, this condition is called an epidemic or a pandemic. Type C influenza infections can lead to mild respiratory conditions and they are not considered dangerous enough to start epidemics.

Influenza A pathogens are sub-classified based on two proteins on the virus surface. One is the neuraminidase (N) and the other is the hemagglutinin (H). The neuraminidase virus has 10 different subtypes while the hemagglutinin has 17 subtypes. Influenza A viruses can also be further classified into different strains. Influenza A viruses subtypes found in people can include the H3N2 and the H1N1 flu viruses. A new strain of the H1N1 influenza A virus has been discovered in 2009 during the spring season. The new virus strain looked very different from the typical H1N1 influenza A virus. The new flu virus was responsible for the first influenza pandemic in more than 4 decades. The new strain, now called the 2009 H1N1, is now the most prevalent form of flu virus replacing the older H1N1 virus that previously was infecting humans.

Viruses of the Influenza B types have no subtypes; however, they can be classified into different strains.

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