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What Causes Flu Symptoms with Neck and Back Pain and Muscle Aches?

written by: K. A. Arbuckle • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 7/29/2010

Flu symptoms with neck and back pain and muscles aches can have several different causes. Learn more about what these symptoms could mean.

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    While these symptoms may just be a case of seasonal influenza, it can also be caused by other illnesses. Isolating some of the possible problems requires knowing more about the causes of the flu-like symptoms.

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    Cat Scratch Fever

    Cats can spread bacteria to people. 

    Cat scratch disease spread to humans through the cat’s claws. The disease is caused by a bacteria, Bartonella henselae. Cat scratch disease begins with mild flu-like symptoms, such as fever and fatigue. Neck pain occurs due to lymph node swelling. Muscle aches and back pain are part of the overall malaise caused as the body fights the bacteria. Doctors identify cat scratch disease through a special test to identify the bacteria. A lymph node biopsy helps with diagnosis.

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    West Nile Virus

    Mosquitoes transmit West Nile virus to humans 

    West Nile virus has been in the United Stated since 1999. Mosquitoes transfer the virus to people after biting infected birds. Once infected, the person shows symptoms similar to the flu, such as headache, nausea, sore throat and a lack of appetite. Other symptoms of West Nile virus include back pain, muscle aches and a stiff neck. Usually the symptoms last for no more than a week, though in some people meningitis may occur. The virus can be identified through antibodies present in blood tests.

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    Lyme Disease

    Life cycle of ticks family ixodidae. 

    Spread by ticks, Lyme disease can cause flu symptoms with neck and back pain and muscle aches. It begins with a rash near the tick bite site. The infected person will develop symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, headaches and fever. The person may experience back pain due to chronic arthritis caused by the disease, along with a stiff neck. Doctors diagnose Lyme disease with a blood test and treat it with antibiotics.

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    Swine Flu

    Symptoms of swine flu 

    Swine flu, or H1N1, is a type of influenza, but the symptoms may be more severe than the typical seasonal flu. Symptoms of swine flu include muscle aches, joint pain and tender lymph nodes, all of which can cause neck and back pain. General flu symptoms such as a sore throat are also present. Individuals with medical conditions, like diabetes, asthma or cancer, can become very ill from swine flu. Medical professionals can test for H1N1 and treat it with antiviral medications.

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    Medical Care

    Any time you experience flu-like symptoms, along with more severe symptoms like neck pain, you should seek medical care. Tests can isolate what causes the symptoms and what treatment path to take. Waiting to get treatment can cause long-lasting problems in some cases.

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    References

    Cat Scratch Disease: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001614.htm

    West Nile Virus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007186.htm

    Lyme Disease: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000669.htm

    H1N1: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/2009-10/pdf/what_to_do_if_you_get_sick.pdf

    All images from Wikimedia Commons

    Image1: Mao lini

    Image2: Jim Gathany

    Image3: CDC

    Image4: Mikael Haggstrom

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