Abu Dhabi: Respiratory infections are common with the changing weather, and the UAE has seen a spate of them since the current flu season kicked off in September 2022.
Amid rising cases of adenovirus overseas, doctors have once again reminded residents that basic hygiene measures – like handwashing and covering coughs – are the best measures to protect oneself, coupled with an annual dose of the flu shot.
Although usually responsible for mild illnesses, adenovirus has sparked global alarm following a series of deaths in India. Speaking to Gulf News, doctors in the UAE said the viruses are actually rather common. They urged caution especially in high-risk groups of individuals, including children younger than five years, individuals above 65 years, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses and people with immunodeficiencies.
They also called on people who are unwell to do their bit to protect themselves and the community.
“Adenoviruses are among the many viruses that cause infection when the weather changes, especially from December to February. But compared to other viruses, adenoviral infections can occur all year round. According to US-based studies, there are more than 50 types of Adenovirus and types 3, 4, 7 and 14 are associated with acute respiratory illness,” explained Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, specialist pulmonologist at Medeor Hospital, Dubai.
These viruses usually cause respiratory illnesses or conjunctivitis, added Dr Hady Jerdak, chief executive officer, and internal medicine, pulmonary diseases and sleep disorders specialist at Harley Street Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi.
He added that the most common presentation is a common cold or flu-like symptoms, with fever, sore throat, acute bronchitis, pneumonia, conjunctivitis or pink eye, and acute gastroenteritis with diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.
Why watch out
“Adenoviruses are particularly sneaky. [Infections] look and act like the flu, but it’s not the flu. It can, however, be fatal in rare cases, especially in high-risk groups,” Dr Sainalabdeen said.
“Serious illness can occur in infants, and children, those with weakened immune systems, or those with existing lung or heart disease,” Dr Jerdak stressed.
Monitor children, high-risk people
Given these risks, the doctor advised residents to keep a close eye on children when they fall ill, and to keep them home from school if they are unwell.
Families should also visit the doctor to check on the nature and cause of illness when children, or other high-risk individuals, are unwell.
“Frequent travellers, and people at risk, should also get the flu vaccine yearly,” Dr Jerdak said.
Regular and booster vaccinations help improve immunity, Dr Sainalabdeen added.
Meanwhile, people with flu symptoms should take steps to protect others.
“If you have flu symptoms, avoid crowded places for a week, ensure you keep your face masked properly, and wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing, and use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Other than this, ensure a healthy diet, good hydration, proper sleep and regular exercise. Also take your lifestyle medications on time,” Dr Sainalabdeen said.