Sunday, March 22, 2009

Influenza – Major Occasional Pandemic Outbreaks

Influenza – Major Occasional Pandemic Outbreaks
Influenza or simply “flu” is caused by a virus. It occurs not only in occasionally major pandemic outbreaks, but also in epidemics of variable severity almost every winter.

The term “influenza” has been derived from the Italian ‘influentia’ in the mid-1300s, indicating that, at the time, the illness was believed to result from astrological influences.

Yet, the aetiloogy of the disease and the explanation for its peculiar behavior remained elusive.

At the turn of the 19th century, influenza was thought to be due to a bacteria infection with Haemophilus influenzae.

It was not until 1931 that Richard Shope showed that swine influenza could be transmitted with filtered mucus, indicating that the causative agent was a virus.

A few years later, Smith and co-workers isolated the influenza virus from humans with respiratory illness.

The burden of influenza for the society, not only from a clinical but also from an economic perspective, is often underestimated.

This relates particularly to the recurring annual winter epidemics. Fortunately, since the virus was first discovered, efficient means to contain the infection have been developed.

Vaccination is the cornerstone of influenza prevention and control. Accordingly, the WHO (World Health Organization) has issued guidelines for implementation of influenza vaccination programs in individual countries.

Yet, in many places, implementation of vaccination programs remains woefully deficient. This implies that significant numbers of people at risk of the complications of influenza remain vulnerable to infection and possibly death.
Influenza – Major Occasional Pandemic Outbreaks
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