September 24, 2020
Influenza or ‘Flu’ is an acute respiratory illness caused by mainly influenza viruses A and B. There are dozens of subtypes however those that are strongly linked to epidemics are (A-H1N1, H3N2). There are fewer strains of Influenza B, but these are also linked to the seasonal flu which risks an epidemic every year. Influenza C causes a milder respiratory illness. And Influenza D is only found in cattle.
The Influenza virus is known for its high rate of mutation. As a consequence, a new Influenza vaccine is produced every year to “match” the prevalent circulating strains. Therefore a safe and effective Flu vaccine is available every year.
The most effective way to prevent the disease is vaccination. The flu vaccine protects you and those around you from around half and all flu viruses. The vaccine has been historically successful in protecting populations from seriously large outbreaks of the illness for more than 60years. Illnesses range from mild to severe and even death. Hospitalisation and death occur mainly among high risk groups due to superinfections such as pneumonia and encephalitis.
Those at highest risk include young children < 5 years, elderly > 65years, those with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, pregnant women and those with immune suppression (eg; those on cancer treatment and immunosuppressant medications).
As per the World Health Organisation (WHO) worldwide, these annual epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 290 000 to 650 000 respiratory deaths.
Flu and Covid-19
There is a greater emphasis on vaccinating during the current 2020/21 season as this will coincide with the current pandemic of Covid-19 infection. This is also a severe acute respiratory illness caused by coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
Symptoms of Influenza and Covid-19 cannot be distinguished without specific testing for both viruses. Both present by “attacking the lungs” with sudden onset of fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise (feeling unwell), sore throat and a runny nose. The cough can be severe and can last for 2 or more weeks.
Vaccination against Influenza should reduce patients presenting with the illness and diminish the risk of simultaneous co-infection with both viruses. Thereby preventing an epidemic of Flu in addition to the Covid-19 pandemic!
Our take home message is to vaccinate yourselves and your families against the Influenza virus. This in addition to social distancing and wearing masks will help health professionals in managing widespread infection and reduce the likelihood of complicated disease and death.
HealthBay is currently offering the Flu Vaccine for 100AED