Influenza or Flu affects millions every year. This viral infection is contagious and affects adults and children. Older people, kids and those with reduced immune systems are more likely to catch the flu virus. Older people, kids and those with reduced immune systems are more likely to catch the flu virus. Influenza is caused by three types strains of viruses — influenza A, B and C. An attack of influenza helps the body develop antibodies to a particular strain of flu virus but not against new strains. New strains of flu virus keep developing.
Typically symptoms associated with flu are fatigue, headache, runny nose, cough and loss of appetite. The patient suffers from high fever too. There may be sore throat and muscle aches. Often a person suffering from influenza has vomiting and diarrhea. Flu virus spread through coughing and sneezing. Infection can spread very easily.
Though often home care is sufficient for treating influenza, anti-viral medication may be prescribed. These medicines can reduce the severity and length of the influenza attack. The Flu vaccine is touted as ideal for those who are at increased risk for contracting influenza and developing serious complications as a consequence.
The flu vaccine is an inactivated vaccine comprising dead virus. This vaccine is usually recommended for administration before the onset of the flu season. Seasonal flu vaccines protect against the three influenza viruses that would be common during the following season. The virus in the vaccine are subject to change each year based on international surveillance about the types and strains of viruses that would circulate in a given year. Antibodies that provide protection against the flu develop in the body after about 2 weeks on administration of the vaccine. This prevents flu from occurring in the person.
Different types of flu vaccines
Regular flu shot – for kids 6 months and older
High-dose flu shot – for people above 65 years of age
Intra dermal flu shot - for people aged between 18 and 64 years of age
The nasal-spray flu vaccine can be used on people aged between 2 and 49; however they have to be healthy to receive the vaccination in this form. It is recommended for everyone to get vaccinated before the onset of flu season. However people falling under the below mentioned categories are advised to get vaccinated against flu.
- Children younger than 5, especially children younger than 2 years
- Pregnant women
- People suffering certain chronic medical conditions
- People 50 years of age and older
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Healthcare workers
Leukopenia is a condition wherein the leukocyte count in the blood is low. Low WBC or White Blood Cells indicate decrease in disease fighting cells circulating in the blood. Some of the common causes for low WBC count:
Viral infections Any viral infections may disrupt bone marrow function for a short duration thus producing low counts of white blood cells. Infections like typhoid, influenza may lower the white blood cell count.
Congenital disorders may weaken bone marrow function, a WBC spectrum test can confirm any such congenital disorder.
Kostmann's syndrome is a congenital disorder wherein the neutrophil production is low.
Myelokathexis Neutrophils fail to enter the blood stream.
Infectious disease HIV destroys the WBC and leaves the person susceptible to infections.
Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
Autoimmune disorders may destroy white blood cells or bone marrow cells.
Aplastic anemia In this condition the bone marrow does not produce enough of any of the cells including white blood cells. This condition may set in all of a sudden or can develop and progress gradually. Few drugs, pregnancy, radiation therapy or chemotherapy can trigger this condition.
Lupus is an auto immune disease wherein the body fights with its own immune system thus destroying white blood cells.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used to kill cancerous cells. They however destroy healthy white blood cells thus leaving the patient with low WBC count. This is one major reason why cancer patients are unable to fight diseases or infections in general.
Leukemia is a type of cancer wherein the body produces too many white blood cells that are abnormal. These white blood cells are not active white blood cells that can fight infections. People down with leukemia have low white blood cell count as their bone marrow is producing more of the abnormal white blood cells.
Cancer may also damage the bone marrow.
Hyperthyroidism An overactive thyroid can produce lower number of white blood cells. The medication used for thyroid can reduce the white blood cell count in the blood.
Liver disorder/Spleen disorder Hypersplenism, in which blood cells are destroyed prematurely by the spleen. An enlarged spleen also known as splenomegaly can trigger low white blood cell count.