Did you know that influenza, is responsible for about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths a year? Influenza is a nasty disease which has symptoms that can be deceivably similar to symptoms of the common cold.

Famous outbreaks

Over the years there have been a couple of enormous flu outbreaks. I will discuss the Spanish flu, the swine flu and the bird flu.

Spanish flu

The Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 was one of the worst outbreaks that occurred fairly recently. Experts believe that this virus killed between 20 and 50 million people, which is more deaths than the number of deaths that were caused by World War I.

Swine flu

Recently, we were all confronted with the swine flu. Swine influenza was a pandemic in 2009, which means that there was an outbreak of global proportions. Swine influenza is a new strain of influenza to which no vaccines were available at the time of the outbreak. The virus already existed for some years in pigs before it was transferred to humans. The swine flu is a mild virus and most infections are similar to the ‘normal’ flu and people infected tend to heal relatively quickly. Death figures differ, but the death toll seems to be between 300,000 and 579,000.

Bird flu

The bird or avian flu is a type of influenza that rarely infects humans. In many cases when avian flu is found on a bird farm, all birds have to be killed, to make sure that the infection does not spread and more birds get infected.


Flu symptoms are similar to symptoms of the common cold. Signs can include fever, headache, nasal congestion, loss of appetite, fatigue, coughing, aches and pains and a sore throat.

Is the virus preventable?

The only known prevention is a flu shot. However, a flu shot does not really prevent the flu. It does increase your resistance to influenza. If you are vaccinated against influenza, dead or weakened flu viruses are injected, so your body can build up a resistance. There are however a lot of different variations of the virus, so it is practically impossible to cover all flu strains. Even if you could vaccinate against all influenza types, you could still catch the virus, because the flu shot does not make you immune to influenza. Other things you can do to prevent the flu are eating healthy, getting enough exercise and making sure that you sleep enough.

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