|07 December, 2019

Here's how you can save yourself from getting a flu in UAE

Globally, seasonal influenza is a viral infection that occurs annually in the winter months

Image used for illustrative purpose. Mother checking forehead temperature of sick daughter laying on sofa.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Mother checking forehead temperature of sick daughter laying on sofa.

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Flu season is hitting people really hard in the UAE and doctors are urging residents to get their vaccine shots to prevent contracting the virus.

Globally, seasonal influenza is a viral infection that occurs annually in the winter months from December to March/April in the Northern Hemisphere and from May to August/September in the Southern Hemisphere. Symptoms of influenza, commonly known as flu, include runny nose, high fever, sore throat, coughing, generalised body aches and joint pains which range from mild to severe.

From the three types of influenza - A, B and C - A and B are commonly seen in the UAE. These two types are responsible for the majority of seasonal influenza infections in humans, and due to frequent virus mutations, annual vaccination is recommended.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates three to five million cases of severe seasonal influenza infections and 290,000 to 650,000 influenza-related respiratory deaths, most of them in the elderly population.

"Treatment of the influenza virus depends on the severity of the infection. Most cases are self-limiting with adequate bed rest, plenty of fluids and pain medications. If the infection persists and does not improve with symptomatic treatment, antiviral medications such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) are used to prevent complication of the infection which could include viral pneumonia, secondary bacterial pneumonia, sinus infection and deterioration of previous health problems like asthma or heart failure, said Dr Tope Titilayo Odofa, head of the emergency department at the RAK Hospital.

Although the influenza virus is common, there may be cases that lead to severe infection and death if not treated appropriately.

The antiviral medications are administered after identifying the influenza strain through tests with the most common being a nasal swab.

Flu prevention

"The best prevention for influenza is annual influenza vaccine which is available in most of the hospitals and clinics from the end of September onward giving excellent results. Some common precautions can also help reduce influenza spread like covering nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing," said Dr Kausar Perveen, specialist internal medicine at the Zulekha Hospital Sharjah.

Other preventive methods include good hygiene by washing hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser. Some antiviral medications are also used as prophylaxis for those exposed to a patient with influenza virus.

"Avoid crowded places when it's epidemic. Restrict person suffering from influenza to get along with others till flu symptoms and fever are cured. Drinking hot liquids, taking more fresh fruits containing vitamin C will help to reduce the suffering from influenza and also help in prevention from influenza," added Dr Perveen.

What's the flu vaccine?

Seasonal influenza vaccines have been produced in eggs, but a slow manufacturing process and viral egg-adaptations have led to a push for cell-based and recombinant vaccine production methods in recent years.

The WHO's Global Influenza Strategy 2019-2030 indicates that influenza is a serious global health threat that impacts all countries. The strategy provides a framework for the WHO from surveillance to disease prevention and control. Vaccines have been available for decades with a recent switch from trivalent to quadrivalent vaccines that protect against each two influenza type A and two B strains.

Many countries recommend annual immunisation against seasonal influenza, especially for high-risk groups such as young children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with chronic diseases.

How to lookout for flu in kids?

To establish the severity of the case, parents can lookout for the following symptoms:

>If the child continues to get sicker and has persistent fever

>Rapid or troubled breathing means the infection has spread to the lungs

>If the child develops a blueish hue to his or her skin

>The child is not ready to interact and if the child feels drowsy

>Fever with a rash

>Fever with a severe cough

>The child is refusing to take fluids

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