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Dubai: Got the early symptoms of the flu? Seek treatment as soon as possible. 

This is what doctors in the UAE advise with a spike in people catching the flu. A number of children and adults have been falling sick with the viral infection. 

In the last four weeks, specialists said local clinics in the emirates have been recording a steady rise in number of patients with flu. 

Dr. Smitha Muraletharan, Internal Medicine — Specialist at Aster Hospital in Qusais, said people must get sensitive about any bodily changes.

Her advice: Seek treatment as early as possible to prevent it from spreading to other people.

People are most contagious in the first three to four days after catching the illness.

- Dr. Smitha Muraletharan, Internal Medicine – Specialist, Aster Hospital, Qusais

Following a proper cough etiquette is also a must, she said in an interview to Gulf News.

“One should always close their mouth while coughing. Use a hand sanitiser frequently to keep the hands clean. Wear a mask if you are going to a crowded place especially if you think you could be getting the flu symptoms.”

Dr. Muraletharan said people with the flu can spread it to others up to six feet away.

“So when you know someone is ill, keep a safe distance from them. Flu viruses are airborne and can also spread with droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or even talk. So care must be taken by a sick person to keep their hands clean at all times and follow the cough etiquette.

She said people are most contagious in the first three to four days after catching the illness.

Route of infection

“Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning a day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Children and some people with weak immune system may pass the virus for longer than a week," she explained

There is a caveat, however.

“Symptoms can begin two days after the virus enters the body. So be aware of body changes,” advised Dr. Muraletharan.

“Many time you can pass the infection to someone else before you know you are sick. So always take the extra precaution during the season.”

Children should be taught how to cover their mouth while coughing and the importance of hand washing.

- Dr. Vamsi Chaitanya, Specialist Paediatrician, Unicare Medical Centre

Dr. Vamsi Chaitanya, Specialist Paediatrician, Unicare Medical Centre also said there has been a spike in children falling ill with flu at the clinic the past two weeks. “It is difficult to put an exact number, as usually there is a rise in number of children falling ill during the flu season which runs from October until March.”

"Children do not know how to deal with their cold. Parents should teach them how to do it. Always pin a hand-ker-chief to the child’s uniform every day. Children – especially – those in kindergarten have constant runny noses and do not understand how to clean themselves properly.”

The specialist paediatrician also recommended children to take the annual flu vaccine. “It helps tremendously to reduce the severity of the symptom.”

In September, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) launched a nationwide campaign to spread awareness on combating the dreaded flu citing that an influenza virus is in the air.

A senior ministry health official called on people to take the flu vaccination, in order to minimise complications of infection and reduce its spread.

The Ministry also ran a ‘National Seasonal Flu Awareness Campaign’ — which ended in December — targeting community members, especially groups that are at higher risk to exposure and health care professionals in the country.

Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Centres and Clinics at MoHAP, in a press conference, said complications that result from seasonal influenza can be dangerous and in some cases deadly.

“Seasonal influenza poses a challenge to health systems around the world and causes about 3-5 million annual cases of severe illness, leading to a health and economic problems,” he said in the earlier interview.

Medication and treatment

Oseltamivir, sold under the brand name Tamiflu, is the popular medication given to people suffering from flu. Children and adults are given this, an antiviral medication to treat and prevent influenza A and influenza B.

“Typically it is given for five days,” said Dr. Smitha.

Influenza commonly known as the "flu," is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring. The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and /or lower respiratory tract.

What's the difference between a cold and flu?

The common cold and flu are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse.

A cold may drag you down a bit, but the flu can make you shudder at the very thought of getting out of bed.

Congestion, sore throat, and sneezing are common with colds.

Both cold and flu may bring coughing, headache, and chest discomfort. With the flu, though, you are likely to run a high fever for several days and have body aches, fatigue, and weakness.

Symptoms of the flu also tend to come on abruptly. Usually, complications from colds are relatively minor, but a case of flu can lead to a life-threatening illness such as pneumonia.

More than 100 types of cold viruses are known, and new strains of flu evolve every few years. Since both diseases are viral, antibiotics cannot conquer cold or flu. Remember: Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections.

Two antiviral medications are available to treat flu. But there are no medications that specifically defeat the common cold. Antibiotics may be helpful only if there is a secondary bacterial infection.

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

Fever over 100.4 F (38 C)

Aching muscles

Chills and sweats

Headache

Dry, persistent cough

Fatigue and weakness

Nasal congestion

Sore throat