UAE: Flu cases surge; symptoms recurring in patients, doctors say

While symptoms used to show for around a week before fading, now they stay for two to three weeks


Ashwani Kumar

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File photo
File photo

Published: Tue 11 Apr 2023, 1:26 PM

Last updated: Tue 11 Apr 2023, 10:43 PM

Caseloads of flu – a contagious illness caused by influenza virus – are on the rise in the country, doctors told Khaleej Times, as they also noted a new trend of recurring symptoms in patients.

“For two weeks, we are seeing an increase in cases. We observed a rise in influenza and flu infections following the pandemic period when there was a lack of natural immunity and people had become more susceptible. Now the cold and dry seasons also help the virus spread faster,” said Dr Gunasekharan Bathrachala Reddy, head of department and specialist internal medicine, LLH Hospital, Abu Dhabi.

Dr Ayaz Ahmed, specialist internal medicine, Aster Cedars Hospital and Clinic, Jebel Ali, has been seeing cases of patients who have recurrent flu within a span of a few weeks.

“We have been seeing a surge in flu cases for the past one month. Unlike other times, this time it has shown specific presentations. In the UAE, people who have not taken the vaccine are likely to get the flu. They will present with common symptoms such as fever, running nose, sore throat and so on. Usually, they recover within a week. However, this time, we have seen patients getting the flu multiple times within the past four months,” Dr Ahmed highlighted.

Dr Ayaz Ahmed
Dr Ayaz Ahmed

Persistent cough, other complications

Usually, symptoms include fever, head and body ache, sore throat, cough and cold, running nose, which subside after a few days. But doctors are now finding issues of persistent cough among patients for more than 2-3 weeks despite medication, and development of other complications in some cases.

“Cough is associated with excessive yellowish sputum, which indicates that it’s not only affecting the upper respiratory tract but also large airways (bronchitis). Some patients developed pneumonia as well. And a few cases have severe headaches and diarrhoea. Virus strain is very virulent and spreads fast among family members. Usually, children are affected first then spread to parents,” Dr Ahmed said and added that the cause for relapse or recurrent infection is so far unknown.

“It may be that multiple variants of the virus are circulating in the atmosphere and causing recurrent infection. Now everybody is 'off-mask', and sudden exposure to viruses may not be giving enough time for our body to produce immunity,” Dr Ahmed noted.

Take a flu shot, wear a mask

Dr Reddy recommended that patients follow hygiene protocols and stressed on community members getting a flu shot.

Dr Gunasekharan Bathrachala Reddy
Dr Gunasekharan Bathrachala Reddy

“We need to follow good hand hygiene, and wear face masks to avoid developing serious infections and complications. Most importantly, take the flu jab, to reduce the spread of influenza. The other measures include avoiding close contact with people who are sick. If you have any symptoms, you should preferably stay at home. It is essential to follow safety precautions like avoiding crowded and closed spaces and maintaining social distance during this season when there is a significant increase in flu cases.”

Dr Reddy underlined that individuals must consult a doctor if they find any symptoms of flu.

“Any patient who suspects flu or a common cold or who is already infected should seek medical attention as soon as possible to receive the best management and care,” Dr Reddy said.

Dr Ahmed added: “You need to go to the emergency department if your heart rate is high, or experience continuous vomiting, dizziness, low blood pressure and low oxygen in the body.”


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