The infections are affecting lungs and muscles in adults and children. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Doctors in the UAE have warned of a new wave of bacterial and viral infections peaking this month and will continue till the second week of March.

The infections are affecting lungs and muscles in adults and children. It is not just viral influenza but a combination of upper and lower respiratory tract infections caused by a combination of air-borne bacteria.

Doctors are reporting a “higher than average” number of people requiring hospitalisation.

Dr Sandip Pargi, pulmonologist at Aster Mankhool, explained why the number of people affected by respiratory tract infections doubled this year and continues to be a major health issue even as we move into summers.

“This year, we experienced a more severe winter with a (sharp) drop in temperatures and heavy fog conditions. This kind of cold weather causes changes in our respiratory mucosa, making it very dry and prone to an infection build-up. Usually infection causing microbes are always around, but in a weather like this we are more prone to come down with the infection.”

Dr Pargi said the number of people with flu, cough, cold and wheezing doubled this year because of the weather. “Usually when it is too cold, people tend to stay indoors and everyone in that closed environment breathes the same unhealthy air. The air travels through AC ducts and with dry mucosa, more and more people catch the infection.”

The condition has affected infants and geriatric patients in advanced ages the worst as in both extremes of chronological ages, immunity is compromised.

Dr Rajendra Joshi, specialist paediatrician at the Prime Health Care group who is diagnosing at least two to three children everyday, told Gulf News that many children are being coming in with a host of complications. He explained, “Usually the season for flu or any kind of fever accompanied by cough, cold and wheezing stretches from September to October, peaking in December and petering out. That is because most people return from holidays from different countries carrying different strains of viruses. However, this year we are experiencing another peak in February, from people who may have taken short holidays in December.”

Elaborating on the different kinds of viral infections in the air, Dr Joshi said: “There is Type A influenza which also includes the deadly H1N1 strain that has caused deaths worldwide. Then there is Type B influenza which has symptoms that are similar to Type A, but less severe. However this year, we saw that the Type B strain was affecting the lungs too. In both cases, we prescribe Tamiflu and plenty of hydration.”

Dr Joshi added another kind of virus called Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) has been in the air. “RSV is a typical winter virus that causes cough, cold and fever in infants. It affects the lower respiratory system and is accompanied by bad cough and causes breathing difficulty in children,” explained Dr Joshi.

In most cases, people are able to feel better with outpatient treatments. However, this year the influenza virus not only seems to have mutated faster, the low immunity in case of children saw them contracting a host of other bacterial infections too.

Dr Joshi added: “When kids fall ill, their nutrition gets compromised and they are unable to sleep due to coughing; this further weakens the respiratory system affecting both the upper and lower tracts.”

Dr Pargi said in cases of adults with other co-morbidities, hospitalisation becomes necessary. “At our hospital, we have been admitting at least six cases each week for this kind of affliction. These are patients with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, history of smoking or other co-morbidities which make it difficult for them to fight the infection.”

This year, both children and adults were affected by other bacterial infections such as ‘mycoplasma’ that causes pneumonia-like lung infection and is detected through a blood test and is sensitive to only a few types of antibiotics.


Dr Joshi explained that for both H1NI Type A influenza and Type B, we treat the severe cases with Tamiflu, which can be given to asthma patients, pregnant women and heart patients, as well as advising plenty of rest and hydration. Small kids who may have a compromised immune system with one kind of virus are reporting sick with a combination of symptoms that indicate they are suffering from more than one infection, report hospitals.


Case study: Two little sisters hospitalised for influenza

Baby Xaris Faith Edpao, aged less than a month old at the time of being admitted, and her elder sister Zoe Mathea Edpao, 6, had to be hospitalised for testing positive in an influenza swab test in January and February, respectively, said their mother Camille Edpao.

Xaris, who was born in the last week of November at Prime Hospital, had heavy breathing and slight fever when she was not even a month old. Her mother told Gulf News: “Doctors at Prime Hospital advised us to admit her as she was breathing heavily and had fever. Newborns have small lungs and they are supposed to breathe 40 times per minute. However, when timed, we realised our baby was breathing nearly 60 times per minute which was quite tiring for her and she had to be admitted.”

Zoe and baby Xaris Edpao admitted in Prime Hospital in Dubai.

Soon after the baby was discharged, her sister Zoe who goes to school had to be admitted with cough, cold and shivering. “We tried to manage our older daughter with sponge baths, paracetamol etc. However, when she got worse, we had to admit her too,” said Edpao.

What’s more, Xaris had to be admitted again in February with her sister as it looked like the stubborn infection had returned. Now both sisters have returned home and are recuperating.

Both children tested positive for influenza and had to complete courses of Tamiflu. Edpao added, “One needs to be very watchful with little kids as influenza can be tough on their bodies. Normal paracetamols do not work, so I advise parents if your child’s fever and congestion isn’t responding to over-the-counter medication, go for an influenza test and get the right treatment. Little children’s condition can worsen very quickly.”

How to fight infections

■ Get influenza vaccination. Every year, people are advised to take new vaccination against influenza in September which costs anything between Dh50 and Dh60. This is highly recommended as the virus is known to mutate quite fast and requires fresh immunisation.

Be vigilant of cough, cold and fever and consult doctor immediately

Do not self-medicate or go in for palliative symptomatic care. It is important to undergo tests to know the nature of your infection especially if it is causing breathlessness, wheezing and myalgia (pain due to weak muscle strength).

Try and get plenty of rest as that will contain the infection and strengthen the immune system.

Keep yourself well hydrated, especially when you are on powerful medication like antibiotics and Tami Flu.

Keep your indoor air clean by clearing out any fungal infestations in air ducts that might aggravate respiratory issues.

Take a good dose of Vitamin C (at least 1 gm per day) which is a strong anti-oxidant that builds resistance for prevention of such conditions.