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Understanding Influenza

Cincinnati, OH

Microscopic depiction of influenza virus.
Influenza virus

The flu season comes every year, and we’re advised to get the flu vaccine yearly. How exactly does the flu affect our bodies? What happens inside our body after transmission and contact with the virus occur? Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness that infects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It is important to note that there are many different types of flu. The stomach flu is different from influenza. Meanwhile, the common cold also differs from the flu; flu symptoms are even more severe.


Common Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Sore Throat

  • Runny or Stuffy nose

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

The immune response to the virus causes most symptoms of the flu. The flu can be spread through tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. A person could also get the flu by touching a surface or object containing the flu virus and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.


How does the Influenza virus affect our system?
  • The virus must first be inhaled or transmitted to the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, or eyes.

  • The virus then travels down the respiratory tract and binds to the epithelial cells lining the lung airways via specific molecules on the cell surface.

  • The virus hijacks its protein manufacturing machinery inside the cell to generate its viral proteins and create more viral particles.

  • Once mature viral particles are produced, they are released from the cell and can then go on to invade adjacent cells, causing the virus to spread throughout your body.



How can you prevent the spread of the flu?
  • Avoid large crowds

  • Wash your hands regularly

  • Get the annual flu vaccination

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces

Visit Influenza (Flu) | CDC to learn more about the flu and how to prevent it.


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