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Difference between flu and bacterial infection

Flu vs bacterial infection

The oldest and the commonest enemies of us humans are diseases. Of all diseases, we have a feeble defence before the innumerable insects and microbes which have survived millennia and are relentless. They cause infections and can bring down entire nations, for example, the great plague of the 14th century that wiped off 75 million people from the face of the earth or the cholera pandemic that started by killing over a million people in Russia in the 1850s going on to infect the rest of the world. How deadly an infection is depends on the pathogen causing it.

The flu, or influenza, for example, one of the commonest infections, that has ruined a few precious days of the work week for each of us. It is caused by a virus from the influenza virus family. It is essentially a disease affecting birds and mammals. Human strains often mix up with strains from birds and pigs to produce more lethal strains occasionally leading to a global scare. Bacterial infections are caused by pathogenic bacteria. Bacteria are of many types and each affects different systems making them easier to identify. The respiratory system is as easily affected by bacteria as it is with the flu virus.

The flu generally begins with vague unease, body ache and fever. There might be chills and shivering followed soon by a runny nose, headache and sore throat. Sneezing, blocked nose and coughing occur in varying degrees in different patients. General discomfort and weakness are more intense than all other symptoms. There might be nausea or vomiting, especially in the paediatric age group. The fever takes 3-5 days to subside and the weakness takes another 5-10 days. Bacterial infections generally produce fever which subsides in a day or two, followed by a severe productive cough with greenish-yellowish phlegm from the nose or throat. The appetite and thirst of the patient often diminish on account of lack of sense of smell and a bitter taste in the mouth.

The flu and bacterial infection are both spread via contaminated droplets dispersing in the air from a cough/sneeze of an infected person. These extremely tiny droplets get inhaled unknowingly and infect the respiratory system.

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