|29 November, 2018

UAE residents urged to take vaccine after rise in flu cases this year

Yearly vaccination is the first and most important step in protecting oneself from influenza

A health agent prepares a vaccine during a campaign of vaccination. Image used for illustrative purpose.

A health agent prepares a vaccine during a campaign of vaccination. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

There has been an 'unusual increase' in the number of flu cases this year even before the onset of winter and a noticeable difference in the symptoms has emerged, too, said doctors.

However, most flu illnesses are self-limiting and only supportive treatment is needed, they added.

According to Dr Zahra Rajab, a general practitioner at Emirates Hospital Day Surgery in Motor City, there has been a 70 per cent increase in flu cases this year.


"Since September, we have witnessed a rise in the number of patients," she said.

"On a daily basis, we see more than four to five cases that are flu-related. In the last few years, the condition was observed more in children, but there has been a substantial increase in the number of adult cases this year," she added.

Dr Rajab said that alongside regular symptoms such as colds, cough and sore throat, it has been observed that people complain of headaches, joint pains and vomiting.

"We observed a number of patients complaining of reactive arthritis. It is recommended that you visit your nearest physician as soon as you observe any such symptoms to ensure that the condition is addressed," she said.

Dr Mohammad Aslam, specialist pulmonologist at International Modern Hospital, said: "The UAE is witnessing an increased number of flu (influenza) cases in recent days with the change in weather."

He, however, said that there is no need for the public to panic about influenza. "Advice from healthcare workers must be sought quickly if symptoms become more severe and if one is at risk of developing complications," he added.

Dr Aslam said there are certain categories of individuals who are at risk of developing the severe form of flu and related complications. "Children, people at the age of 65 and older, pregnant women and others with diabetes, asthma and chronic lung diseases, among others, require extra care for prevention and treatment," he said.

Vaccination key to preventing it

Yearly vaccination is the first and most important step in protecting oneself from influenza and its potentially serious complications, he said.

"Everyone - from six months of age onwards - should get a flu vaccine, preferably between October and December," added Dr Aslam.

"Other preventive measures include frequent and proper handwashing, covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, good indoor ventilation, and properly maintained air-conditioning filters."

While Dr Rajab agreed that flu vaccination is the key to avoiding prolonged suffering, she said everyone must also "eat healthy, drink lots of fluids, inhale steam, rest well and avoid exhaustion". She added that sick children must not be sent to school.

Dr Rajab said antiviral flu drugs can be taken to reduce the severity and duration of the flu.

"If a patient is diagnosed with Influenza A or B, he or she must undergo the treatment prescribed by a doctor. Once it is under control, follow the regular treatment, which includes sufficient fluid intake and healthy eating," she said.

According to the World Health Organisation, seasonal influenza spreads easily with rapid transmission in crowded areas such as schools. The virus can also be spread by hands contaminated with viruses.

In October this year, a nine-year-old Indian schoolgirl died showing flu complications for over a week, while another 17-year-old Dubai student also died in a flu-related case.

Cold or flu?

A common question that comes up is about the difference between a flu and a cold. Flu symptoms are usually more severe than those of a cold. Symptoms of a flu include sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches, runny nose and cough, while a common cold may manifest with a scratchy throat, cough, watery eyes, stuffy nose and slight fever.

Tips to prevent flu

>Clean your home

>Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze

>Wash your hands

>Limit your contact with family and friends who are ill

>Get vaccinated

(According to Dr Saad Aboudan, specialist otolaryngology, Al Zahra Hospital Dubai)

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