Failure can destroy a person

Influenza: Risk Factors, Complications & Deaths

Complications can occur in anyone with the flu. The influenza viruses destroy the outermost layer of the respiratory organs (ciliated epithelium of the mucous membrane) through their massive multiplication in the cells and can also weaken the immune system by reducing the scavenger cells (macrophages) formed by the body for defense. In contrast to "cold viruses", influenza viruses can also spread to the lungs, brain or heart and cause serious complications there.

The effects of the complications are highly dependent on the general health of the influenza patient. Severe, life-threatening disease courses up to and including death mainly affect older people over 60 years of age. Older people are particularly at risk from the flu because their immune system is often weaker than that of younger people. The possible complications as a result of an influenza infection also threaten the lives of elderly patients in particular.

However, there is an increased risk of severe progression, complications and death for people of all ages if there are underlying diseases - such as chronic diseases of the respiratory system, heart or circulatory diseases, liver or kidney diseases, diabetes mellitus or other metabolic diseases, chronic neurological basic diseases, such as Multiple sclerosis with infection-related flare-ups, congenital or acquired

Immunodeficiency or HIV infection. There is also an increased risk for certain groups of people such as residents of old people's or nursing homes and pregnant women.

The main complications are pneumonia, which can be divided into 3 categories:

  • primary influenza pneumonia caused by the virus itself,
  • bacterial pneumonia after superinfection (including pneumococci, staphylococci, Haemophilus influenzae) or
  • Exacerbations of chronic lung diseases such as COPD.

The damaged airway mucosa is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, which can now penetrate unhindered. This easily leads to additional bacterial infections (super or secondary infections), which are often more severe than the actual influenza. In addition to bacterial pneumonia, bacterial complications include otitis media (especially in children), sinusitis and purulent bronchitis.

In addition, the influenza viruses themselves can directly damage the cardiovascular system and cause cardiac muscle inflammation, cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac insufficiency with reduced pumping capacity (heart failure), an accumulation of fluid in the lungs due to the weak heart (pulmonary edema) or a circulatory shock. In some cases, attacks by the viruses on the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system (meningitis, encephalitis) have also been observed. Since the influenza virus can in principle damage any organ, symptoms such as liver swelling, abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting are also possible.