By: Nick Webster
Hospitals and clinics are bracing themselves for the onset of flu season but are not expecting an increase in the number of cases seen last winter.
Advice is being offered by the Ministry of Health and Prevention to strengthen influenza response capacities.
That includes offering vaccines to those most at risk and improving diagnostics and disease surveillance to help monitor potential outbreaks.
Common symptoms include a fever with a rise in body temperature, a dry cough, body aches and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea, especially in children.
“Those at the extremes of age, both very young and old are most at risk from influenza,” said Dr.Magdi Mohamed, a consultant in emergency medicine at Burjeel Hospital.
“Anyone with any kind of immune deficiency or those with diabetes or HIV are also more at risk.
“Prevention is always better than cure, so they should avoid contact with sick people.
“Last winter we had few serious cases of influenza, and it is important people know the difference between that and a common cold, which is less serious.
“People can be contagious for up to seven days, and there is no placed for antibiotics in treating flu, but there is a vaccine available in all government hospitals that should be taken ahead of the flu season.”
Seasonal flu spreads easily through the inhalation of droplets that carry the virus, from coughing or sneezing; or when touching surfaces contaminated by the flu virus and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
The duration of the infection varies from one day before the onset of symptoms to 5-7 days after the onset, and this period can last longer in children and people with a weak immune system.
Most patients recover from a fever and other symptoms within one week without the need for medical intervention.
Taking available anti-viral drugs helps preventing the complications and treatment is most effective if taken in a timely manner within 48-72 hours from starting the symptoms.
School clinics are on alert to spot the early signs in children so the best advice can be given.
“In a school setting with class numbers up to 27 children, infection rates are very high, particularly in younger children,” said Dr.SadafJalil Ahmed, a doctor at Deira International School.
“We had few cases last year that was serious, maybe one who was admitted to hospital with a high fever.
“There is a small, but increasing minority of parents who will not go down the road of antibiotics, but there are plenty of others who do choose to take them as they believe their children will recover faster.
“A lot of schools are addressing this issue of antibiotics, and trying to educate children and parents about when antibiotics should be used.”
The best way to prevent the disease and its serious complications is to get a seasonal influenza vaccination every year.
It is recommended for all, especially for those who are at higher risk of complications and they are people with chronic diseases, weak immune system, people 65 years of age and above, children under five years of age, especially under two years of age, pregnant women and health care, workers.
“It is difficult to see your child being sick, but it has to run its course and viral conditions can linger – antibiotics are not the answer,” said Dr.Sadaf.
“Some parents rush their children back to school too early when they haven’t recovered and they can suffer a secondary infection.
“It is a dilemma for both doctors and parents.”