Influenza Virus

Epidemiology and Risk Factors. The term influenza derives from a flu epidemic in the 15th century that was attributed to an influence of the stars. Influenza viruses are single-stranded RNA viruses that are members of the orthomyxovirus family.'»' Influenza A virus is a major cause of respiratory disease in children and adults. y Influenza B and varicella-zoster virus are the most common antecedent infections in patients with Reye's syndrome. Influenza-type illnesses have been reported to precede the development of acute ascending paralysis, the Guillain-Barre syndrome. In utero exposure to the influenza virus has been suggested as a contributing factor to the development of schizophrenia. y y y The occurrence of influenza in mothers in the first trimester of pregnancy has been associated with an increased risk of neural tube defects.'»' A reversible paralytic syndrome and the Guillain-Barre syndrome have been associated with influenza immunizations. y , y

Pathogenesis and Pathophysiology. The influenza virus is transmitted from person to person by aerosolized or respiratory droplets. The virus attaches to and replicates in ciliated columnar epithelium of the upper and lower respiratory tracts, following which a viremia ensues. '58' The major neurological complications of influenza are Reye's syndrome, postinfectious polyneuritis, and acute viral myositis.

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