You know what they mean when you hear people say they got the “flu”?
It starts with an annoying throat bug and a runny nose then comes the chills, fever and body aches.
The word flu has been used incorrectly to describe many illnesses like the stomach flu but it actually refers to 4 types of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D where influenza A and B are most prominent.
Influenza A infects both humans and animals which is linked to seasonal epidemics in the USA known as the “flu season.”
This virus keeps changing and has various subtypes that include bird flu (avian influenza) and swine flu.
Influenza B on the other hand has two subtypes named Victoria and Yagamata which occurs in humans only and mutates slowly.
Influenza A and B cause seasonal epidemics every Summer and Winter known as the “flu season.”
According to the CDC, influenza A is more common but influenza B became highly prevalent in early 2020.
A temperature, frequently above 100°F (37.8°C), is a typical sign of the influenza virus.
In more severe cases, it could cause life-threatening complications and it is highly contagious.
So, a flu is basically a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the throat, nose and sometimes the lungs.
This article explores the symptoms of influenza B, the causes, prevention and treatment of this strain of virus.
What are the differences between the different types of influenza virus?
Influenza virus is transmitted through direct contact between animals and humans, contact with contaminated surfaces and by dispersal of the virus through coughing and sneezing.
There are 4 types of influenza namely: influenza A, influenza B, influenza C and influenza D.
|Influenza A||Influenza B||Influenza C||Influenza D|
|1. Most common form of influenza found in both humans and animals||1. Highly contagious and can be dangerous and damaging to your health present only in humans and some presence in seals and sea lions||1. Mildest type of influenza in humans and some presence in dogs and pigs||1. Primarily affects cattle and swine but does not infect humans|
|2. Can spread from animals to humans||2. Only spreads from human to human||2. Can spread from both humans and animals||2. Spreads from animal to animal|
|3. Can cause pandemics||3. Can cause seasonal outbreaks and can be transferred throughout the year||3. Does not cause epidemics||3. Does not cause epidemics|
Who is at higher risk of contracting influenza B virus?
Influenza can hit anyone; healthy people, people of all ages but there are some people who are more at risk of developing flu complications.
Risk factors for type B influenza is more prevalent among children younger than 5 years old especially those below 2 years and other risk factors include:
- Chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, heart disease, kidney disease
- Aged 65 and older
- Weakened immune system such as anti-rejection medications, cancer treatments, organ transplant, long-term use of steroids, blood cancer or HIV/AIDS
- Living in hospitals, nursing homes or military barracks
- Undergoing long-term aspirin therapy will increase the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome
What is the difference between the flu and covid-19?
Both influenza and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses.
COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 while influenza is caused by influenza viruses.
It is difficult to distinguish between the two by the mere symptoms as they are similar.
A PCR test can help differentiate between the two infections.
The cold and the flu also have similar symptoms and it can be confusing to distinguish between the two.
They are different and you can get a cold many times a year but, the flu once every few years.
Talk to a healthcare professional about getting tested for both COVID-19 and the flu if you have symptoms that are similar.
What are the causes of the flu?
The influenza virus is what causes the flu.
Majority of the cases the flu is spread by small airborne droplets released when someone:
- Sneezes or coughs
- Comes into contact with the virus by mouth, nose or eyes
- Has weakened immune system
New strains of influenza viruses frequently emerge where if your body has previously experienced influenza then antibodies have already been produced to combat that particular strain of virus.
However, antibodies die over time so you will need additional protection to combat new emerging strains of the influenza virus.
What are the symptoms of influenza B?
You will start feeling the symptoms of the flu about 1 to 7 days after you come in contact with the virus.
Influenza B has symptoms similar to influenza A but still has the potential to be damaging to your health particularly in children.
Not everyone with the flu will have a fever, it starts with symptoms of the common cold that comes in suddenly and lasts for about a week.
The symptoms of influenza B include:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Body aches
- Chest discomfort
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, like vomiting and/or diarrhea though this is more more often the case in children than adults
The aches, fever and pains begin to go away from the 2nd day through the 4th day but, new symptoms will appear that affect your breathing like dry cough
Most symptoms will go away within 4 to 7 days but the cough and overall weakness could last for sometime and fever comes back where you will experience appetite problems.
If left untreated, the flu will make breathing problems, asthma and other chronic illnesses worse, so make sure to visit your doctor.
What are the complications of influenza B?
Most of the symptoms of influenza B will subside in a few days to 2 weeks but you could develop complications which can be life-threatening and fatal.
Moderate complications include:
- Sinus and ear infections
Serious complications include:
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart)
- Encephalitis (infection of the brain)
- Myositis or rhabdomyolysis (muscles)
- Multi-organ failure like respiratory failure and kidney failure
- Worsening of chronic illnesses like asthma attack
How to prevent yourself from contracting influenza B?
Maintaining good hygiene is the number one prevention method for most illnesses.
The first step would be to get your flu shot in preventing influenza to protect yourself and others who cannot get the flu shot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised all people aged 6 months and older to get the influenza vaccination.
During the flu season, children between the ages of 6 months and 8 will need 2 doses whereas in each flu season everyone else will need only 1 dosage.
The CDC advises using the recombinant influenza vaccination plus the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) for the 2019–2020 flu season (RIV).
Healthy, non-pregnant people between 2 to 49 years old could get the nasal spray flu vaccination called live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV.
Besides taking these precautionary measures, you should also:
- Wear a mask when you leave your room
- Avoid coming close to people who are ill
- Avoid sharing food, utensils, cups or bottles
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently throughout the day
- Try not to touch your face, eyes, nose and mouth
- Use hand sanitizer when you are outdoors
- Cover your mouth with tissue or into your sleeve when you cough or sneeze if tissue is not available
- Disinfecting surfaces and especially frequently touches areas
How to treat influenza B?
Prescription drugs, together with additional medications and a change in lifestyle, can help reduce the length of your flu and lower the severity of your symptoms.
The majority of the time, the flu can be treated at the comfort of your home that includes:
- Resting and staying home
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Eating mild and soothing foods like chicken soup as the virus runs its course
- Taking a warm bath or using a humidifier for clearer breathing
The symptoms of the flu become mild within 3 to 4 days.
The flu can be treated with medications if it has been identified within the first 48 hours of symptoms. These include:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to help lower fever
- Cough drops or throat sprays to help with your sore throat
If you have prior health problems like:
- Heart conditions
- Blood disorders like sickle cell disease
- Lung disease like asthma
- Heart conditions except high blood pressure
- Liver, kidney and muscle conditions
- Weakened immune system due to radiation therapy, chemotherapy, corticosteroids
You will then need antiviral medicines as your condition can worsen causing further complications.
Antiviral medications will help shorten the severity and duration of the symptoms and reduce risk of complications.
Some effective antiviral medications include:
- Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) is typically a 5-day course that is FDA approved for adults and young teens
- Relenza (zanamivir) is in powder form that can be inhaled using an inhaler for 5 days
- Rapivab (peramivir) is used as an intravenous medication for hospitalized patients for up to 5 to 10 days but can be administered as a single dose of treatment in uncomplicated cases
- Xofluza (baloxavir) is a pill taken as a single dose
Medications like antiviral (treat viral infection), analgesic (relieve pain), antitussive (relieve cough), expectorant (help release sputum) and decongestant (relieve nasal congestion) will help reduce your symptoms and hasten recovery.
When should you see the doctor?
If you have the flu with severe symptoms and are at-risk of having complications where self-treatment is not working then you need to call your doctor for better health guidance.
Emergency symptoms in adults include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Dizziness or confusion
- Persistent chest pain
- Fatigue or muscle pain
- Worsening of existing medical conditions
Emergency symptoms in children include:
- Fast breathing
- Chest pain
- Dehydration with dry mouth
- Fever above 104°F
- Bluish lips or face
- Severe muscle pain
- Worsening of existing medical conditions
If you or anyone you know are experiencing these warning signs then you need to obtain medical care right away.
Although, you can help treat your flu at home, please consult your doctor for any symptom you notice is severe or concerning for you.
Anyone of any age can get influenza as it is a common respiratory infection.
There are many ways to treat the flu starting with your vaccine shot as soon as possible to lower your chances of contracting the seasonal flu.
You will need plenty of rest and fluids for recovery and doctor-prescribed antiviral medications to shorten the length of the flu.
Influenza B is more severe than the common cold and so should be treated with caution.
Make sure to consult with your doctor before taking any medications especially if you have additional health concerns