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Cold and Flu

Common Cold and Flu Causes

12/18/2008

Question:

Is it true that the common cold and flu is a relatively `new` disease? I`ve read articles about how 40 years ago the common cold did not exist, and that if everyone on the planet washed their hands frequently and for at least 13 seconds with soap, the common cold and flu would be virtually eliminated. If true, where did the cold and flu come from? Didn`t progress help `clean up` our lives rather than help spread the flu?

Answer:

This is a very difficult issue to address because you are asking several questions. The common cold is caused by a number of different viruses. Rhinoviruses, of which there are 100 different types, are implicated most commonly. Influenza can also cause a cold, although the typical illness is usually more serious (`flu`). Again, other viruses can also cause the flu. Since it is difficult and costly to culture viruses, most diagnoses represent our best guess rather than a definitive result.

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Response by:

Peter D Walzer, MD Peter D Walzer, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati