Understanding the influenza virus

There is a great  article in the online magazine Ars Technia  that details influenza viral replication and structure. It is essentially a re-print from a post from the epidemic of 2009 (there are a few details at the beginning regarding this year’s virus). However, what is there, is very good. It details how the virus replicates, what the H and N stand for in the viral names (hemagglutinin and neruaminidase) as well as how the virus infects.

If anyone in your family wants to know and understand influenza a little better this is a great article. One of the reasons I especially liked this article is because it details the fact that this is an RNA virus. More specifically, this virus needs not one, but requires THREE RNA dependent RNA polymerases (RDRPs) in order to make infectious virions:

Finally, the influenza virus’ genome exists as RNA, rather than DNA, and the (host) cell’s enzymes are not prepared to duplicate that or transcribe it into the messenger RNAs that get made into proteins. So, the flu virus brings its own, with three genes encoding RNA-dependent polymerases.

The article states that the best strategy for preventing the flu is a vaccine (killed or live attenuated), but that isn’t 100% effective (actually only 67% effective this year). If you do get the flu, this is a the best advise on what to do as holistic therapy in a  site  from the U.S. government:

You can treat flu symptoms without medication by:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Drinking clear fluids like water, broth, sports drinks, or electrolyte beverages to prevent becoming dehydrated
  • Placing a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead, arms, and legs to reduce discomfort associated with a fever
  • Putting a humidifier in your room to make breathing easier
  • Gargling salt water (1:1 ratio warm water to salt) to soothe a sore throat
  • Covering up with a warm blanket to calm chills

Little by little we are beginning to understand that Granny was WAY ahead of us in common sense treatments that actually work.

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