UAE: Influenza among children on the rise, doctors suggest jab

Doctors are urging parents to get their children vaccinated against the seasonal flu, as they see an influx of paediatric patients complaining of fever and body ache at their medical centres, especially after the reopening of schools this September.

The flu season is usually between August and February, where medics see the maximum number of infections.

Children are now returning to schools and the changing weather sometimes adversely affects individuals. Parents are concerned about the health of their children.

Dr Abin Vijayan Specialist Paediatric and Neonatologist with Prime Medical Centre Burjuman branch says: “I am seeing a lot of cases in clinics where the kids get exposed to the virus in their nursery or schools. They then return home with high-grade fever, headache and body pain. I strongly recommend taking a flu shot and this week is the best time in the UAE. Take it before winter starts. The protection starts after 14 days of administration. In fact, all age groups starting from six months to 60 years can take this vaccine. The vaccine usually provides 70 to 90 per cent protection in healthy adults and a 25 to 40 per cent reduction in hospitalizations. The protection is around 50 per cent in children below five years.”

He adds: “Influenza rates are highest in children aged five to nine years, but complications are more in children below five. The side effects of vaccine are mild and may include fever, and pain at the site. Revaccination is recommended with a single annual dose. So, I strongly recommend this vaccine for all children aged six months to 18 years and all contacts of children, health care workers, all women likely to get pregnant in the influenza season.”

They explain seasonal influenza is a disease caused by the influenza virus. It mainly affects the respiratory system, especially the nose and the pharynx.

Dr Santhosh George, Specialist Pediatrics and Neonatology, Aster Hospital, Mankhool says: “Schools have re-opened after the summer break. The nation would now see the descent of the winter months. Children have started reporting at our clinics with flu and different types of viral fever. It is a normal phenomenon. Children contract the flu or viral infections once they start going to school after the summer break. Once the winter sets in, we would see a spike in the number of cases. The best way to protect oneself from influenza is by getting a flu shot.”

George added: “The symptoms of influenza/flu range from mild to severe. Normally, a child or an adult takes a few days to two weeks to recover once infected depending on the severity of the infection. The flu vaccine is the best and most effective way to protect ourselves from the infection. It is a safe vaccine. Even a baby above six months of age can get the jab from the hospital. For children, it is critical as the chances are more for them to contract the disease in the coming months. So as said, prevention is always better than cure. Parents should therefore get their children flu shots to remain on the safer side. Also, flu affects adults.”

Healthcare professionals also reiterate it’s best to be vaccinated before the flu spreads in the community.

Dr Ayman Fahmy, Specialist, Pediatrics, Medeor Hospital, Abu Dhabi says, “The best time for children to get vaccinated is as soon as it becomes available. Everyone above six months of age can get vaccinated with rare exceptions. September and October are generally good months to be vaccinated against the flu. Ideally, everyone should get the shot. People should try to get vaccinated by the end of October. However, even if you cannot get vaccinated until November or later, vaccination is still recommended because flu most commonly peaks in February and significant activity can continue into May.”


Khaleej Times

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