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Influenza was first diagnosed in the 1930s and has since been classified into three types: A, B and C. Influenza C has never caused a major epidemic, but A and B each have. Also known as the flu, influenza is a highly contagious virus that can have severe complications 1. The two strands have different biological mechanisms but are largely similar, especially in the symptoms.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
You catch influenza A or B when you breathe in the virus from someone else's cough or sneeze, or when you touch a surface with the virus on it (such as a phone or faucet) and then your nose, mouth or eyes. The risk of infection from both influenza A and influenza B is higher in crowded public areas and living quarters.
Influenza A is more likely to appear between early winter and the beginning of spring in areas that have distinct seasons. Influenza B can appear any time of the year. Both types begin to show symptoms within a week of exposure to the virus.
The symptoms of influenza A and B are the same: fever; fatigue; body and muscle aches; nausea and vomiting; headache; chills; dizziness; and sore throat. Just as the initial symptoms appear to get better, respiratory problems (difficulty breathing, coughing, runny nose) begin to appear.
A doctor gives you a physical exam to evaluate your signs and symptoms. An antigen detection test, done with a swab of your throat and nose, is the most common way of diagnosing influenza A and B. Blood counts and cultures, as well as sputum cultures, are sometimes completed. If your respiratory symptoms are severe, you may get a chest X-ray.
The symptoms of influenza A are usually more severe than those of influenza B. The most serious epidemics in history have been of influenza A; however, severe symptoms are possible with both viruses.
The most common complication is bacterial pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening condition that causes difficulty and painful breathing, as well as a high fever. Encephalitis, an infection of the brain, can occur as a result of influenza A or B. In children, another possible serious complication from influenza A or B is Reye's syndrome, which affects the nerves and has been linked to using aspirin during a flu outbreak 1. Reye's syndrome causes nausea and vomiting. It can also lead to confusion and delirium.
Encephalitis, an infection of the brain, can occur as a result of influenza A or B. An antigen detection test, done with a swab of your throat and nose, is the most common way of diagnosing influenza A and B. In children, another possible serious complication from influenza A or B is Reye's syndrome, which affects the nerves and has been linked to using aspirin during a flu outbreak 1.