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Everyone should get a flu shot, especially medical workers, school staff and those who fall under the high-risk category due to age or certain comorbidities. Image Credit: Getty Images

Dubai: Almost half of students suffering from flu in the UAE are less than 10 years old, a study conducted by the Dubai Health Authority showed.

This was the first in-depth study conducted on over 30,000 confirmed influenza cases in Dubai from 2017-2019.

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The study — entitled Trends, patterns and prevalence of influenza — conducted by the Dubai Health Authority, sought to establish the significance and importance of getting vaccinated against the flu virus, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to WHO, influenza affects more than 10 per cent of the total population annually worldwide. It is highly contagious disease; spreads easily, with rapid transmission in crowded areas including schools and nursing homes.

Interesting finds

Announcing the results of the study during a webinar, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) officials emphasised that it was important for everyone to get a seasonal influenza vaccine this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The webinar was moderated by Dr Hamid Yahya Hussain, Consultant in the Data Analysis, Research and Studies Department at the DHA and the speakers of the webinar included Dr. Abdishakur Abdulle, Associate Director, Public Health Research Centre, New York University Abu Dhabi and Dr. Heba Mamdouh, PDF in Public Health and researcher in the Data Analysis, Research & Studies Department at the DHA. She added that the study was particularly important as it provided an integrated platform for understanding the pathways, characteristics and trends of seasonal influenza in Dubai and is thus an entry point for effective public health approaches. The study will help decision makers and health policy developers to device evidence-based policies.

Khalif Jallaf, Director of the Data Analysis, Research and Studies Department at the DHA said, “The aim of the study was to attempt to understand seasonal influenza in Dubai, by assessing the incidence rates from 2017 to 2019, identifying the risk factors associated with the infection, and identifying the demographic distribution most vulnerable to the disease. We strongly promote data collection and research with an aim to help device evidence-based policies to enhance the health sector in Dubai and to promote public health and well-being.”

Findings of the study

The study revealed that almost 49.5 per cent of the cases were among children less than 10 years of age.

The study also revealed that 84.53 per cent of the total seasonal influenza cases during 2017 to 2019 were handled at the outpatient level, yet 15.47 per cent were severe enough to be admitted and treated at an inpatient level across different health care facilities in Dubai.

The present study showed that the incidence rate of seasonal influenza in Dubai between 2017 to 2019 as per month distribution was the highest in November followed by December and the least was in July.

Benefits of the flu shot
A flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Most flu vaccines protect against influenza A and two influenza B viruses. “Even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu, it may make the illness less serious should you get infected. In most cases, it may protect the patient for getting a severe form of the flu that can lead to inpatient hospitalisation.”

The study concluded that incidence rate of seasonal influenza in Dubai has been increasing in the last three years, yet it is not alarming.

The highest rates significantly come from the children segment of the population specially students and the elderly group as well. The period from October to end of February of each year showed the highest rate of seasonal influenza incidence in the emirate.

He urged community members especially high-risk groups to get vaccinated before the start of the flu season especially this year due to COVID-19.

Who should get a flu shot?

Dr Yahyah recommended that everyone should get a flu shot, especially medical workers, school staff and those who fall under the high-risk category due to age or certain comorbidities. “We recommend that people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, those with any chronic diseases, children especially before the age of 5 years, should opt for the flu vaccine specifically.”