Flu
Influenza, or flu, is a viral infection that usually affects your respiratory system. Image Credit: iStockphoto

Dubai: If you’ve been feeling an itch in your throat, or the sudden onset of a fever, be careful – it’s ‘flu season’.

Earlier this month, Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health (DoH) stated that the rate of seasonal flu cases has returned to pre-pandemic levels in Abu Dhabi, and one of the most effective ways to make sure you stay healthy is by taking an influenza vaccine or ‘flu shot’. Health authorities in the UAE have been raising awareness about the need to get vaccinated and follow basic precautions to stay healthy during the changing seasons.

According to DoH, the influenza vaccine is updated annually to ensure continuous immunity. Individuals are protected for up to two weeks from the date of receiving the vaccination, and it is recommended that individuals aged six months and above receive a single dose of vaccines annually. DoH recommends that children who are nine years old or younger should be administered two doses, with the interval between the doses being four weeks or more.

How can I get a flu shot in the UAE?

Abu Dhabi

Residents in Abu Dhabi can get a free flu shot at any of the public health centres in the Emirate. You can visit any of the health centres, and simply provide your Emirates ID and health insurance card to receive the vaccine, without the need to book an appointment.

Dubai

Dubai residents can get the flu vaccine at any of the health centres operated by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). To book appointment, you will need an MRN number (Medical Record Number).

If you received a COVID-19 vaccine through a DHA vaccine centre in the past two years, you would already have an MRN number. In case you do not have an MRN number, you can also create one by following these steps:

How to create a Medical Record Number (MRN):
Your MRN is required when booking your COVID-19 vaccine appointment:
• Visit the DHA website www.dha.gov.ae or this direct link - https://bit.ly/MRN_E
• Enter your Emirates ID number.
• Enter the OTP received to your registered mobile number
• Enter your details
• Submit your request

To book an appointment for the flu vaccine, you can download the ‘DHA’ smartphone application, which is available for both Apple and Android devices, or call the DHA hotline on 800 DHA (342).

The vaccine costs Dh50. However, it is free for some categories of Dubai residents, like those who are above the age of 65 years, People of Determination, residents who suffer from chronic diseases, children below five years of age and pregnant women.

Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain

If you are a resident of any of the Northern Emirates – Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain – you can visit an Emirates Health Services (EHS) health centre to receive a flu vaccine.

The vaccine costs Dh50. However, it is free for some categories of UAE residents, like those who are above the age of 65 years, People of Determination and residents who suffer from chronic diseases, children below five years of age and pregnant women.

How flu spreads

Because seasonal influenza is a contagious and acute respiratory infection, it is important to know how it spreads, so that you can follow the necessary precautions. According to DHA, here are the different ways in which the virus spreads:

• Direct mode of transmission: Droplets that are dispersed when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
• Indirect mode of transmission: Touching contaminated hands or objects and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms you experience when you are infected by the influenza virus can range from mild to severe. According to DHA, there may be instances where a flu infection leads to more serious health complications, like bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections or worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.

“Symptoms usually subside within a week, without any medical intervention. However, it may cause severe illness that requires hospitalisation and may lead to serious complications, particularly among certain high-risk groups,” DHA said in an online post on October 22.

Here are some of the symptoms that indicate that you have the flu:

• Sudden onset of fever
• Muscle and joint ache
• Cough
• Malaise
• Headache
• Sore throat and a runny nose.
• Younger children may experience vomiting and diarrhea

High-risk categories

• Pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy.
• Children between 6 months to 5 years.
• Elderly above 65 years.
• Individuals with chronic medical conditions such as chronic cardiac, pulmonary, renal, neurodevelopmental, liver or hematologic diseases.
• Healthcare workers

How to prevent seasonal influenza

According to health authorities in the UAE, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the disease. However, here are some steps provided by the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP), which you should also follow to avoid getting infected:

1. Get your flu shot
2. Wash and sanitise your hands regularly
3. Follow good respiratory hygiene practices. For example, use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and immediately dispose it afterwards.
4. Self-isolate early if you are feeling feverish or showing other symptoms of influenza, to prevent infecting others.
5. Avoid close contact with sick people.
6. Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth too frequently.
7. Clean and sterilise frequently used surfaces and tools.

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