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Call to fight off flu

 Staff Reporter

MUSCAT

Influenza cases in the Sultanate have dropped, but the Ministry of Health has cautioned people to take precautionary measures since the disease season has just started and could continue till May.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has, in a statement, said there was the need for people with high risk to take the regular seasonal vaccine.

The number of influenza cases till October were down substantially to 952 compared to 1,492 in 2016. There have been eight deaths so far as against nine in 2016 and 25 in 2015. These were among the high-risk category, resulting in complications.

Seasonal vaccine is recommended for high-risk people, including health-care workers, pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy, elderly individuals and those having chronic medical conditions.

Caused by virus, this acute respiratory infection is seasonal and in the Sultanate it appears throughout the year as it is in the semi-tropical region. It generally follows the northern hemisphere seasonality. Influenza in Oman approximately follows northern hemisphere seasonality. There could be a spurt twice a year. The major peak is between October and December and the lesser one around April.

Acute respiratory infections, including influenza, are a major cause of morbidity and mortality across the globe. Influenza surveillance provides important information to inform policy on influenza control and vaccination.

Usually, after two days of exposure to the virus, the flu-infected person may show symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, running or blocked nose and body and muscle pain. There could also be vomiting and diarrhoea in some cases, especially in children.

The infection can be transmitted a day before the symptoms are notices and approximately up to a week after this. The infection transmission could be longer among children and those with deficiency immunity.

To prevent the spread of the disease, the ministry has suggested improved hygiene and covering the mouth and nose when coughing and washing hands regularly.

Those afflicted with the disease are to drink a lot of water and take rest and get proper treatment and medication.

Using syndromic case definitions and protocols, patients were enrolled in a descriptive prospective study on the burden of severe acute respiratory infections (Sari) and influenza. Demographic information was taken and oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal swabs were provided and specimens were tested.

According to earlier studies, between January 2008 and through June 2013, a total of 5,147 cases were enrolled and tested for influenza. Strains were detected in 8 per cent cases. Annual incidence rates ranged from 0.5 to 15.4 cases of influenza-associated Sari per 100,000 population. The median age of influenza patients was 6 years with children 0–2 years accounting for 34 per cent of all influenza-associated hospitalisations.