A spike in flu cases is usually recorded in Dubai from October, according to an in-depth study of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). With October just a couple of weeks away, the authorities are calling on the community to get the flu shot – especially in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Abdishakur Abdulle, associate director of the Public Health Research Centre at New York University Abu Dhabi, said: “Both seasonal influenza and Covid-19 have similar clinical manifestations so, this flu season, it is imperative to take the flu vaccine.”
With the similarities in symptoms, it may be hard to tell the difference between influenza and Covid-19, another expert said during the discussion of the DHA’s new study on Monday.
Dr Heba Mamdouh, public health expert and researcher in the Data Analysis, Research and Studies Department of the DHA, said: “Testing will be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Since we already have a vaccine in place for influenza, it’s best to take the vaccine.”
When should you get the flu vaccine?
Dr Mamdouh added that it would be best to get the vaccine in the beginning of the flu season, from the end of September. “It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.”
She emphasised that the vaccine for influenza will not protect against Covid-19, so precautionary measures must be adopted at all times.
Who should get a flu shot?
Everyone should get a flu shot – especially medical workers, school staff and those who fall under the high-risk category due to age or certain comorbidities, said Dr Hamid Yahya Hussain, consultant in the Data Analysis, Research and Studies Department at the DHA.
“We recommend that people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, pregnant women, immuno-compromised individuals, those with any chronic diseases, children especially below the age of five years, opt for the flu vaccine specifically,” Dr Yahya said.
Most flu vaccines protect against influenza A and two influenza B viruses. “Even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu, it may make the illness less serious should you get infected,” Dr Yahya added.
“In most cases, it may protect the patient for getting a severe form of the flu that can lead to in-patient hospitalisation.”
Currently, vaccination coverage is not as widely adopted as healthcare professionals hope to see, he said. This is one of the major reasons for the spread of disease.
Another issue, he added, is the lack of awareness of the disease and the lack of understanding of the benefits of the vaccine.
Besides the personal benefit, getting a flu vaccine also contributes to the wider public health effort.
“It is important to realise that taking the vaccine is not just for you, it’s also to prevent spreading the virus to others. It’s quite simple; at a community level, the more people that are vaccinated, the fewer overall cases there will be, which is better for the community and the healthcare system, especially since we also have Covid-19 to tackle this year,” Dr Yahya said.
“It is better to think of your wellbeing, the wellbeing of your family and we must also think of the community as well.”