It Has Been a Bad Flu Season. Here Is How You Can Prevent It
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. While cold and flu viruses spread rapidly in indoor environments like offices, they can also spread at outdoor work environments. This occurs when they become airborne or contaminates a surface that many people touch, such as the handrail of a sky train. People who get vaccinated are at lower risk of getting influenza than those who are not. An expert also recommends people in high risk group to get vaccinated.
What is influenza?
Influenza is a potentially life threatening illness. It is a contagious disease of the respiratory tract caused by influenza viruses. Each year, influenza causes serious infection and death around the globe. It can lead to complications and for some people - the elderly, people with poor immune systems and people with pre-existing respiratory, cardiac and endocrine disease - influenza can be a significant disease and cause death.
- Headache and aching behind the eyes
- Body aches
- Feeling extremely weak and tired
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
Symptoms in children might be different than those in adults. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In Thailand, influenza presents year-round, but the incidence is high in rainy season.
How does influenza spread?
Influenza viruses spread mainly through droplets made when people with the disease cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
Most people who get the influenza will have mild illness and recover in less than two weeks. Some people, however, are more likely to get complications that can result in hospitalization and sometimes death. The complications are:
- Influenza can also make chronic health problems worse
For example, people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by influenza
How to prevent influenza?
- Yearly influenza vaccine
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. The germs spread this way.
- If you are sick, stay at home and cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
Who should get vaccinated?
- People aged 65 years or over
- People aged between 19-64 years who have asthma, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- People who have to be admitted at least 1 time per year from chronic disease such as diabetes, kidney disease, hematologic condition
- Weakened immune system due to disease or medication
When should I get vaccinated?
It is best to get vaccinated before influenza begins spreading in the community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protects against influenza. For Thailand, an expert recommends that people get the vaccine during January – June. A flu vaccine is needed every year because flu viruses are constantly changing. The formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed and updated each year to keep up with changing flu viruses.
The flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 70% and 90% among the overall population. Although vaccine’s effectiveness can vary depending on who is being vaccinated – factors are age and health, it can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations, complications, and mortality rate.
Due to the ease of transmission of flu it presents itself as a dangerous threat each year. To minimize the chances of illness, flu vaccines should be taken every year.
Reference: Dr. Piyawat Taytawat, an internal medicine specialist, Bangkok hospital
For more information:
Vaccine clinic, Bangkok hospital
1st floor, Bangkok hospital building
Tel 0 2310 3003, 0 2755 1003, or 1719