Humans have grown super conscious about health care and diseases for the past few centuries. Thanks to numerous medical enhancements in both directions of prevention and treatment, we are no longer lost when it comes to various health conditions. One of the epitomes is undoubtedly influenza, which sits next to heart diseases, diabetes, and chronic lower respiratory diseases as the most common illnesses. We know influenza most typically by specific symptoms and characteristics that share a common ground with a simple cold. Yet, there is more to it in terms of severity and possible consequences. Influenza C is one of four kinds of influenza and is significantly different from the rest due to several features: it is different structure-wise, is not responsible for pandemics, and mainly targets humans and pigs. Read on to learn more about influenza type C, the symptoms, and the prevention methods.
The Structure of Influenza C
Similar to influenza A, B, and D, influenza type C belongs to a family of enveloped negative-sense RNA viruses called Orthomyxoviridae. This family contains seven genera, one of which is Gammainfluenzavirus which holds the influenza C virus as its only species. Concerning the amino acid composition, influenza C and D viruses are half similar, which depicts the congruity between the two. Besides, all four types are single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) viruses, meaning they own the most basic form of a genetic molecule. Influenza C viruses comprise only one glycoprotein called hemagglutinin-esterase fusion (HEF), the same glycoprotein on the surface of influenza D viruses. This glycoprotein can mutate and subsequently engage in antigenic drifts, which causes genetic variations that are unfamiliar to currently existing antibodies. On this account, influenza C remains a threat, though less concerning than influenza A and B.
Distinctions between Influenza C Viruses and Other Types
Despite the various elements that mark a resemblance between the types of influenza, there are some essential distinctions too. One of the most prominent differences concerns their natural hosts. Along with influenza B and D, influenza C viruses do not live and reproduce in specific animal species, while birds are considered the natural reservoir of influenza A. With respect to this, influenza viruses primarily infect humans and pigs, while influenza B chiefly targets humans, and influenza D is prevalent among cattle. Nevertheless, the overarching scope of animal species susceptible to influenza A is far more extensive and includes wild birds, domestic poultry, humans, horses, cats, dogs, etc. In consequence, influenza A constantly undergoes rapid antigenic shifts and antigenic drifts, leading to widespread epidemics. This is not the case with influenza C, which explains its absence from the leading causes of seasonal flu and pandemics. Additionally, influenza C contains 7 RNA segments as well as 9 encoded proteins, whilst the numbers for influenza A and B are slightly more.
Influenza C Recognition: Symptoms and Tests
Besides the symptoms as the easiest way to diagnose your infection, some tests might be beneficial as well. Among these identifying tests, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) has proved to be more efficient than the other routes for recognizing the glycoprotein of influenza C viruses. Influenza type C is known to cause mild respiratory infection, and the symptoms are not likely to bring about acute troubles. Young children (under 2 years of age) and the elderly are generally more exposed to influenza C due to their vulnerable immune systems. Moreover, people with chronic health conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, should exercise caution over influenza C infection. The most common symptoms of influenza C include fever, muscle pain, cough, headache, nasal discharge, and fatigue. However, if not treated, some acute consequences like pneumonia and bronchitis may also follow. Worthy of remark, the severity of these symptoms often has a direct correspondence to the degree of fever. Influenza C symptoms usually take a day or two to turn up and can last up to ten days, depending on one’s overall immune system.
Direct and Indirect Transmission Routes of Influenza C
Influenza C viruses are commonly transmitted precisely as other types via respiratory droplets during talking, coughing, or sneezing. Inhalation of these droplets leads viruses toward your respiratory system and causes infection. What is more, these viruses tend to live on for a short while on the surface of some objects, like a doorknob or a desk. As a result, you can get infected indirectly by touching such contaminated objects and your face afterward. It is worth mentioning that hard surfaces such as plastic or stainless steel usually retain the viruses longer than soft surfaces like fabric.
Vulnerable patients with weakened immune systems are advised to take immediate action when symptoms appear. This can be done by an influenza test or simply consulting your healthcare provider. That said, several precautions can benefit you in preventing influenza C infection. First and foremost, basic personal hygiene habits, such as washing your hands frequently and keeping your nose and mouth clean, can pay off here too. Besides, a healthy lifestyle that comprises enough sleep, workout, and a nutritious diet can substantially boost your immune system. On top of that, you need to be on alert for sick people around you; keep your distance at more than 6 feet away or, more preferably, avoid any contact, and take some time off work and stick to isolation precautions if you get infected.
Vaccination for Influenza C
WHO and CDC highly recommend everyone 6 months and older get an influenza vaccine. Different types of influenza vaccines include inactivated influenza vaccines (IIV), the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV or nasal spray), and recombinant influenza vaccines (RIV). All these options are quadrivalent vaccines, meaning that they provide protection against four viruses: two influenza A and two influenza B types. In other words, there are no vaccines for influenza type C. It might be disappointing to find out that no vaccine is available for influenza C. Yet, that does not endorse an oversight on behalf of health organizations since there is little need for vaccination against influenza C. As mentioned earlier, influenza C, despite mutating, is not a cause for either seasonal flu or more serious pandemics and, thus, not a public health concern. You may get infected with influenza C all year around and experience cold-resembling symptoms that usually go away before long.
Influenza C is one of several types of influenza which causes mild lower respiratory infections. For the most part, the influenza C virus is a human pathogen, but it can afflict pigs, cattle, and dogs too. Due to the lack of a natural reservoir and other structural differences, influenza type C is not responsible for seasonal flu or deadly pandemics, unlike influenza A and B. Hence, various flu vaccines do not immunize against influenza C. In any case, it is transmitted from person to person, and the symptoms are similar to other types, such as cough, fever, and fatigue. Everyone is prone to get type C influenza, especially young children, the elderly, and patients with underlying health issues. Since the available vaccines disregard influenza C, the most effective way of prevention is to reduce the spread of germs to the lowest amount by simple hygiene habits.