UAE: The A to D of influenza and why you should get the flu vaccine

Doctors explain different types of infections, symptoms, how long they last, and who are most vulnerable


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Wed 4 Oct 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 4 Oct 2023, 10:18 PM

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) is urging the UAE community to get vaccinated against the flu. Taking to platform X, MoHAP has issued “tips to keep yourself and your community safe from influenza” as the country transitions into the winter season.

Among the pointers were get the flu vaccine; avoid close contact with people who are sick; cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; and wash hands often and for 20 seconds each time.

The advisory came as doctors reported an increase in the number of people seeking medical assistance. One doctor reported a 50 per cent increase in the number of patients complaining of flu-like symptoms.

Dr Mais M Mauwfak, specialist internal medicine, Thumbay University Hospital Ajman, said patients typically complain about a runny nose, nasal congestion, headaches, cough, nausea, sore throat, fever, body aches, and, occasionally, diarrhea.

The flu season typically starts in October. This is when the UAE launches its seasonal vaccine campaign, helping ensure a safe winter.

“Cold and flu season usually peaks in January and February. However, with the change in weather conditions in the world, we see sporadic rains and cold winds when we least expect them. This means that you should be prepared to fight cold and flu seasons at all times,” said Dr Mahmoud Elgendy, Specialist Internal Medicine, NMC Royal Hospital, DIP, Dubai.

How long infections last

Healthcare professionals explained that influenza symptoms typically appear one to four days after infection and can last for up to two weeks.

“In some cases, severe complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or worsening of underlying medical conditions can occur,” said Dr Rasha Awad, Specialist Internal Medicine, Burjeel Specialty Hospital, Sharjah.

Types of influenza

Influenza viruses are classified into four types: A, B, C, and D.

Influenza A and B: They infect humans and are the causes of seasonal influenza infections that spread in the winter season.

Influenza C: This virus infects humans and is the cause of influenza infections throughout the year.

Influenza D virus: It infects livestock and cannot be transmitted to humans.

“Both influenza A and B cause seasonal epidemics, but influenza A is typically associated with more severe cases. It has a broader range of hosts, including humans, birds, and animals, making it more adaptable and prone to change through genetic mutation, which can lead to more virulent strains,” explained Awad.

How vaccines help

It’s important to note that while the flu vaccine may not offer 100 per cent protection but it significantly decreases the severity of the illness if one does get infected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older receive the annual influenza vaccine.

Therefore, it’s a crucial tool in protecting not just oneself but also those who are more vulnerable.

“One of the most effective ways to prevent influenza is through vaccination. The annual flu vaccine is designed to protect against the most prevalent strains of the virus expected for the upcoming season. Getting vaccinated not only reduces your risk of contracting the flu but also helps to mitigate its spread within the community,” said Awad.

Vulnerable groups

Influenza can affect people of all ages, but certain groups are at higher risk of severe illness or complications. These high-risk groups include:

Elderly individuals: Older adults, especially those aged 65 and older, are more susceptible to severe flu symptoms due to weakened immune systems.

Young children: Children, particularly those under the age of 5, are also at higher risk, as their immune systems are still developing.

Pregnant women: Pregnancy can weaken the immune system, making expectant mothers more susceptible to severe flu symptoms.

Individuals with underlying health conditions: People with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and immunosuppressive disorders are more prone to severe complications from influenza.


Hospitalisation is more common among high-risk individuals, such as the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.

Severe cases may require hospital care for respiratory support, hydration, and antiviral medication.


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