Influenza, commonly called "the flu," is an illness caused by RNA viruses that infect the respiratory tract of many animals, birds, and humans. In most people, the infection results in the person getting fever, cough, headache, and malaise (tired, no energy); some people also may develop a sore throat, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The majority of individuals has symptoms for about one to two weeks and then recovers with no problems. However, compared with most other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, influenza (flu) infection can cause a more severe illness with a mortality rate (death rate) of about 0.1% of people who are infected with the virus.
Haemophilus influenzae is a bacterium that was incorrectly considered to
cause the flu until the virus was demonstrated to be the correct cause
in 1933. This bacterium can cause lung infections in infants and
children, and it occasionally causes ear, eye, sinus, joint, and a few
other infections, but it does not cause the flu.
What are the causes of the flu?
The flu (influenza) viruses
Influenza viruses cause the flu and are divided into three types,
designated A, B, and C. Influenza types A and B are responsible for
epidemics of respiratory illness that occur almost every winter and are
often associated with increased rates of hospitalization and death.
Influenza type C differs from types A and B in some important ways. Type
C infection usually causes either a very mild respiratory illness or no
symptoms at all; it does not cause epidemics and does not have the
severe public-health impact of influenza types A and B. Efforts to
control the impact of influenza are aimed at types A and B, and the
remainder of this discussion will be devoted only to these two types.