The Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) launched the national seasonal influenza awareness campaign on Sunday and announced free-of-charge vaccinations, beginning this month, for those at high risk in the UAE. All others can get the influenza vaccination at a nominal charge across government health centres and private hospitals in the UAE.
The vaccination covers several strains of influenza, including the deadly H1N1 strains, that have been causing serious viral infections last season.
Dr Hussain Al Rand, assistant undersecretary of primary health centres and clinics at Mohap, said: “Seasonal influenza, also known as the flu, is caused by influenza viruses. It affects the respiratory system, mainly the nose and throat. The season extends every year in the UAE from Septmeber to April and an influenza jab can help one prevent any kind of flu. It is advisable that everyone takes this vaccination to prevent any episode, especially since this condition is air-borne and can spread through droplets of water released through cough and a runny nose.”
Who is at high risk?
Explaining the high risk groups that are most vulnerable to catching the air-borne influenza virus, Dr Laila Al Jassimi, head of immunisation at the health ministry said: “The vaccine is administered free of charge to pregnant women, children under the age of five, senior citizens above 60 years of age, patients who have other co-morbidities such as uncontrolled diabetes, heart disease and health care workers. In addition, all locals (Emiratis) will be administered the vaccine free and it will provide proper protection against influenza for the entire season.”
Why is this vaccine neccessary?
Dr Nada Al Marzouki, director of preventive medicine at the health ministry, explained: “Every year the influenza virus develops several mutative strains and that is why it is important that we update the vaccine to counter the new mutations. The efficacy of the vaccine against prevention of influenza is very high and it is recommended that all high risk groups and other members of the community as well take the vaccination which is available across all primary health centres and in private health establishments too.”
Dr Badreya Al Harmi, director at the public health protection department at the Dubai Health Authority, said: “At the start of the new academic year in September under the school health policy, all school managements are trained to educate parents about the basic etiquette of managing a sick child. If a child has fever or cough, he must stay at home , if a school nurses detect a sick child then we make sure all those who came in contact with the child, especially those in high risk groups. We have developed outbreak response systems and also provide Tamiflu to schools as a prophylactic to counter the spread of the disease.”
Dr Farida Al Hosani, manager communicable diseases at the Department of Health Abu Dhabi, said the vaccination is available across all military and health care service centres in the capital and in most cases is free of charg, except for those not at high risk of influenza.
Symptoms of Influenza
• High fever
• Dry cough
• Get the seasonal influenza vaccination
• Have plenty of liquids and keep oneself hydrated
• Cover mouth while coughing and sneezing as the virus is airborne
• Use a surgical mask to prevent infection
• Use hand sanitizers especially when using public utility services in crowded places