Over the past few weeks, many people have been coming down with the flu, especially due to the year's change in weather conditions.
From September to March, the chances of coming down with influenza increase.
Due to the focus being on COVID-19 over the past few years, the flu epidemic, which was previously a big concern, has now seen a reduction in awareness.
According to Dr Mourad Kirollos, Staff Physician, Primary Care - Family Medicine in the Medical Subspecialties Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, "Our immune systems have been through a bit of a roller-coaster in the last two years and the ride is still not over. Flu can seem like an unimportant illness to many; however, it can quickly escalate to a life-threatening situation. This annual epidemic is responsible for severely affecting between three to five million people and being the causal effect for 650,000 respiratory-related deaths. While people may question whether the flu vaccine is effective in any way, it is important to understand that the most effective way to prevent the disease is vaccination."
As many people mistake influenza for COVID-19 due to similar symptoms, the influenza test is taken too late and should be done simultaneously to find out the root cause effectively, as results take 24 hours to arrive.
Dr Toni Zink, Family Medicine Specialist at Allied Medical Center said, "The trick with influenza is that if you do not get tested within the first two days from getting it, the medication to fight it is not as effective."
Connector in conversation with doctors around the UAE has helped give some insight into the flu season and ways to combat it.
Who is at risk for the flu?
"As many as 650,000 people a year can die of the flu. While it can have a severe impact on people with compromised immune systems, even healthy individuals are susceptible," said Dr Mourad Kirollos of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. "Usually, recovery takes just a few weeks, however, it can lead to complications such as pneumonia, heart or brain inflammation, or sinus infection."
Dr Mourad Kirollos of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi further added, "Research studies have proved that it is crucial for those who have a chronic disease to be protected from flu by taking the influenza vaccine, as having a chronic disease can exacerbate a flu infection."
What are the symptoms of the flu, and how long does it last?
Some of the symptoms of the flu, as mentioned by Dr Toni Zink at Allied Medical Center, are:
- High fever of over 39 degrees
- Runny nose and nasal congestion
- Body aches
Dr Toni Zink at Allied Medical Center further added, "Symptoms of influenza can be similar to COVID-19 and other respiratory infections and can last around 7 to 10 days."
Why is it important to get the flu shot?
Dr Mourad Kirollos of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi said, "Influenza vaccines offer approximately 70% to 90% protection against clinical disease in healthy adults. Among elderly people, vaccination may reduce the number of hospitalisations by 25% to 39% and has also been shown to reduce overall mortality by 39% to 75% during the influenza seasons."
Are there any side effects of the flu shot?
Dr Toni Zink at Allied Medical Center said, "The side effects of the flu shot can be redness near the injection site and muscle soreness. Additionally, people that are allergic to eggs or components of the flu shot cannot take the flu shot."
What is the age category for the flu shot?
Dr Mourad Kirollos of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi said, "It is advisable for everyone over three years of age to get a flu shot. It is rather important, as high-risk groups include adults aged 50 years and above, children under five years, pregnant women, smokers and people with comorbidities, such as diabetes and hypertension."
Can the flu shot be taken around the same time as COVID-19 vaccine?
"Although both COVID-19 and the flu are contagious respiratory illnesses, taking the coronavirus vaccine does not offer protection against the flu, as the influenza strains are totally different from COVID-19 strains," said Dr Mourad Kirollos of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
People need to be aware of the symptoms and issues with the flu season, as recovery depends on detecting it earlier.
Additionally, with the flu shot, the flu symptoms reduce and can lead to a quicker recovery and less impact on the person's life.