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Seasonal Influenza and Impact on Society

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Seasonal Influenza and Impact on Society
Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious illness caused by influenza viruses (influenza virus A, B and C) that affects the respiratory system. The illness can be moderate to severe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2015), five to 20 percent of the population in the United States contracts the flu each year and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to complications caused by the illness. The CDC also reports that between 1976 and 2006 flu-related deaths have ranged from 3,000 to nearly 50,000. Individuals more susceptible to flu-related complications include children, older adults and individuals with compromised immune systems.

Classification of Influenza
Seasonal Influenza, along with other types of influenza, is a primary disease. A primary disease is defined as acute onset of a disease or illness that is not associated with a previous injury or disease (primary-disease, 2015). This information is consistent with information available from the CDC as the agency states that the flu, most often, comes on suddenly and without warning. Any complication one may experience due to contracting influenza would be considered a secondary disease. Symptoms consistent with the acute onset of influenza include but are not limited to body aches, fever, chills, sore throat and headaches. People who are experiencing these symptoms are encouraged to see their respective primary care doctor or health care provider (CDC, 2015).

Impact on Society
Influenza has a substantial impact on society, particularly during years when the illness is more prevalent. During flu season (roughly October – March each year), it is not uncommon for influenza to rush through homes, workplaces, schools, nursing homes or assisted living facilities, or even entire towns. This, of course, has a direct impact on absenteeism and loss of productivity in the workplace. According to Klesper (2014), considerable economic impact of influenza on society is primarily the result of reduced productivity and lost work time. Likewise, this also impacts caregivers due to time lost taking care of their loved ones. Furthermore, influenza increases the need for health care resources in both primary care and acute inpatient settings. Regarding economic impact, the total burden of influenza across all age groups in 2003 was more than $87 billion. Direct health care costs to treat influenza was about $10.5 billion, or 12 percent of the total economic burden (Klesper, 2014). Direct health care costs include things like a medical professional’s time, hospitalizations, diagnostic testing, prescribed medications, etc. More simply, influenza increases the demand for health care resources. When demand increases, availability of resources decrease which can negatively impact consumers seeking health care services.

Preventive Steps
While there is no cure for influenza, there are steps an individual can take to prevent the flu. The most important and responsible step is getting a flu shot each year. According to the CDC (2015), this is the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Additional ways to prevent the spread of viruses include staying away from sick people. Likewise, individuals who are sick should limit contact with others as much as possible. Covering the mouth and nose with a tissues, washing hands, avoiding contact with the eyes, mouth and nose and disinfecting contaminated objects and surfaces are also ways to stop the spread of viruses. Lastly, the CDC recommends that individuals impacted by the flu take antiviral medications if prescribed by their respective doctor or health care provider. Antivirals have been shown to lessen the duration and intensity of the flu and may also prevent serious complications.

Conclusion
The flu is a serious illness brought on by various strains of the influenza virus that can be acquired by anyone at all ages. While most healthy individuals can contract the flu and have no issues, the virus can cause serious medical complications and even death. Those more susceptible to complications include children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems. The annual impact of influenza is quite substantial resulting in billions of dollars of economic loss within the workforce and health care industry. While the societal burden of influenza is very real, there are measures one can take to prevent the flu. The most important step to take is getting a flu shot each year.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2015). Influenza (Flu). http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/disease.htm#seasonal-flu

Klepser, M. E. (2014). Socioeconomic Impact of Seasonal (Epidemic) Influenza and the Role of Over-the-Counter Medicines. Drugs, 74(13), 1467–1479. http://doi.org/10.1007/s40265-014-0245-1

Stedman's Medical Dictionary Online. (2015, September 1). Primary Disease. http://www.stedmansonline.com…...

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