UAE: Are new viruses reason for spike in common cold, flu this season?

Weather changes not to blame for people falling ill, but it can predispose one to getting sick



by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Thu 5 May 2022, 4:38 PM

Many people in the UAE have been falling sick in recent weeks, contracting cold and flu due to nascent encounters with unknown viruses, doctors reveal.

Medics also said weather change by itself is not to blame for people falling ill, but it can predispose one to getting sick.

Dr Maria Clarissa Sagun, general practitioner, Prime Medical Center - Barsha Heights, says: “A lot of people find that they keep getting ill nowadays. It is believed that this is a result of first encounters with new viruses and the body’s immune response. Determining the cause of the illness is a bit difficult as Covid-19, flu, colds, and allergies may have overlapping signs and symptoms.

“Prevention is still the best cure. Measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 can also prevent the spread of flu and cold. Wearing masks, avoiding close contact with the sick, vaccination, and frequent washing of hands are key to avoid contracting illnesses.”

Dr Ponnusamy Tamilvendan, specialist internal medicine, Medeor Hospital, Dubai, said: “There are different kinds of viral infections out of which Influenza A and B are more virulent in causing illness. These are not something new — they have been doing the rounds periodically, and infection rates increase during seasonal changes. Since Covid-19 was ruling the world for the last two years, we were not seeing many of these infections.

“As Covid infections decline, other viral infections are manifesting. The flu vaccine taken every year helps to prevent Influenza. Ways to prevent flu viral infections are the same that we have been following for the prevention of Covid-19 infections. Everyone needs to follow strict hand hygiene by washing or sanitising hands at regular intervals. We should also continue to use masks and follow social distancing even when Covid-19 infection is declining,” adds Tamilvendan.

Doctors do maintain there has always been an increase in patient visits at clinics every time there’s a shift in the weather.

Dr Shayam Raja Mohan, specialist internal medicine Prime Hospital says: “Cases of flu and other viral infections have gone up significantly in recent times. One of the main reasons could be that social distancing has reduced in recent months. The Flu season lasts till April-May every year. Also, people are travelling more nowadays.”

Mohan adds: “Influenza vaccine certainly reduces the incidence and complications of infections and should be taken yearly especially by vulnerable patient groups – immunocompromised, elderly, diabetics, patients with chronic lung/liver/kidney diseases.”

Unhealthy food habits

Healthcare professionals also say an increasing number of children are falling sick these days due to higher consumption of fast foods and a sedentary lifestyle that reduces energy expenditure.

Dr Jenny C. John, medical director, specialist paediatrician, Ibin Sina Medical Centre – Ajman says: “The transition from online classes to offline classes has been stressful both physically and mentally for students. Many children now have reduced stamina levels, making them easily tired. Erratic sleep pattern during home-schooling has resulted in sleep deprivation, especially given the bombardment of screen exposure among kids. In addition, increased consumption of junk food that is devoid of antioxidants and vitamins, and lower physical activity has further reduced people’s immunity.”

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Medics say non-exposure to viruses and bacteria have also impacted the immunity of children. “Regular exposure of children to small inoculums of the viruses and bacteria due to face-to-face interactions at school, while playing, results in development of sub-clinical/clinical infection leading to formation of antibodies and cellular immunity. Homeschooling has not provided this buffer for children. Immunisation of children and routine vaccinations have taken a backseat with many children having missed vaccinations or been partially-vaccinated for vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, chickenpox, and influenza,” adds John.

How to prevent respiratory viral infections

  • Maintain social distancing
  • Use protective masks
  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Have a well-balanced diet
  • Stay hydrated with adequate amount of water
  • Sleep for six to eight hours daily
  • Exercise
  • Take flu vaccination

- Inputs from Dr Shayam Raja Mohan, Prime Hospital


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