Date: 18 Jan 2012

Influenza Virus: A Brief Overview

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Influenza is a major public health concern, infecting 5–15% of the global population annually. Influenza virus belongs to family Orthomyxoviridae, and has three types A, B and C. Infection by influenza virus A is most common and severe, generally found in humans. It spreads rapidly and affects human population across large geographical region within short period of time with varying degree of pathology from mild to severe. Wild aquatic birds and other animal species like birds, pigs, ferret, horses, seals, whales, mink, giant anteaters, cats and dogs are the reservoir for the influenza A virus. Influenza B and C viruses have very limited host range and appear predominantly in humans. Influenza virus gains pandemic potential through genetic reassortment called “genetic shift” with complete renewal of surface antigen and a small but gradual genetic change by mutations which make it to adapt efficiently in human population called “genetic drift”. Although, the epidemiology related to influenza infection has been studied from several years but some facts associated to disease transmission has poorly understood. This article reviews the important aspects of virological, epidemiological and clinical features related to influenza virus for better understanding of disease transmission and its pathogenesis.