Anyone above the age of six months is advised to get vaccinated against influenza, which gives the individual protection for a year. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: A high incidence of influenza is being reported in the UAE as summer transitions to winter and doctors are advising residents to prevent infection by getting vaccinated.

Dr Hassan Kazia, head of Prime Hospital emergency medicine department and a specialist in internal medicine told Gulf News: "About 15 per cent of the emergency cases that we get these days are of patients suffering from flu.”

Dr Sandeep Pargi, senior pulmonologist from Aster Hospital, Bur Dubai told Gulf News: “I have been signing at least two sick leave certificates per day for the last fortnight.”

He attributes the high incidence of influenza to the change in season.

“Every year the genetic make-up of viruses undergo changes. Just as our immune systems gets used to one strain, new strains appear. In addition to this, around this time, especially since a huge contingent of residents on vacation to their native countries return with new strains. The viral load gets high, and the changing season also has a high level of allergens in the atmosphere causing the onset of infections.”

Dr Kazia pointed out that people are reporting to the emergency with typical flu symptoms of high to moderate grade fever, chills, cough, cold, wheezing, body ache and general fatigue. A nasal swab test that tests for Influnenza A and B strain usually confirm the prognosis.

Dr Pargi added that infection was spreading because “People have been confined to closed air conditioned rooms for long owing to the heat and viruses were thriving in AC vents and spreading through it.”

The typical duration of an influenza bout is about 5-7 days. In case of children the infection can last up to a fornight and in cases of those who have a compromised immune system because of advancing age or diabetes or du to pre-existing respiratory diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma are more susceptible to catching the virus.

“An influenza vaccine gives up to 70 per cent cover against contracting any such virus,” said Dr Kazia. The vaccination approved by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) is available at all government Primary Health Centres and private clinics and hospitals by the beginning of September which is the beginning of the influenza season in the UAE.

“It is advisable to get vaccinated to prevent flu right in the beginning of Septmeber. Anyone from the above the age of six months is advised to get this vaccination which gives an individual protection for a year.,” said Dr Pargi who advised against any antibiotic treatment. “Antibiotics are only given when there is a secondary bacterial infection. Otherwise, paracetamol, anti-histamines a strong dose of 1000 mg Vitamin C, some steaming and complete rest is enough to get your immune system to respond.”

How to keep influenza away

Practise hand hygiene and always sanitise especially when using public places or even touching door knobs in offices or cabs

Get an influenza vaccination at the beginning of September

Keep your immune system strong with strong doses of Vitamin C

Take steam inhalation and keep yourself warm

Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough as a sneeze can transmit an infection droplet from six feet across.

Avoid visiting public places such as swimming pools, Turkish baths and even pubs which are crowded

If you areaa diabetic or suffer from any respiratory disease visit your GP for a preventive check.