Winter flu in summer? Doctors report unexpected rise in cases

Influenza, the virus usually responsible for most winter colds, seems to have persisted into the summer this year — a period typically considered flu-free in the UAE.

Doctors said “changes in the weather pattern” could be one of the reasons behind this. They added that sometimes, international travel and the influx of tourists may also contribute to the transmission of flu strains.

Dr Hend Makky, a general practitioner at Aman Lil Afia Clinic Dubai, said: “A lot of doctors in the UAE are reporting a rise in influenza cases since summer started, raising concerns about a potential summer flu season. Traditionally, influenza peaks in the UAE during the cooler months, from October to February.”

Reasons under investigation
Medics emphasised that the exact reasons behind the flu cases this summer are still under investigation.

“Summer travel can expose people to different flu strains circulating in other parts of the world. This could introduce new strains into the UAE population, potentially leading to a surge in cases. It’s also possible that the predominant flu strain circulating this year is particularly contagious or causes more severe illness. This could contribute to a rise in cases regardless of the season,” Dr Makky added.

Dr Mais M Mauwfak, an internal medicine specialist at Thumbay University Hospital, said her clinic, too, has experienced a “notable increase in flu cases” which may be linked primarily to the oscillating weather conditions experienced during the summer months in the UAE.

“The climate during summer fluctuates between extreme heat and high humidity, combined with sudden shifts in temperature due to air conditioning in homes, offices, and cars. These abrupt changes in temperature can exacerbate respiratory conditions such as rhinitis, sinusitis, and bronchitis. The dry, dusty environment often leads to irritated airways, making individuals more susceptible to viral infections like the flu,” Dr Mauwfak added.

Careful diagnosis crucial
Medics said it is essential to recognise that not all respiratory symptoms stem from viral infections. A substantial number of cases are related to allergies, where the symptoms resemble those of the flu but are actually triggered by allergic reactions to dust, pollen, or other prevalent allergens.

“Therefore, careful diagnosis is crucial to ensure appropriate treatment for each condition,” said Dr Mauwfak.

Prioritise flu vaccaination
Meanwhile, paediatric healthcare professionals stressed taking the flu jab so as to reduce the spread of influenza.

Dr Hassan Hababa, paediatrics specialist at Burjeel Day Surgery Center, Al Shahama, said: “The rise in patient visits can be attributed to several factors. Seasonal variations, changes in weather patterns, and increased indoor crowding due to cooler temperatures are likely contributing factors. Additionally, variations in circulating flu strains may also play a role in the increased prevalence.”

“It’s essential for individuals, especially those in high-risk groups such as children, elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions, to prioritise influenza vaccination,” he added.

Children visiting the outpatient department are complaining of cough, runny nose, fever, and strep throat.

“This is more compared to the same month in previous years. Influenza cases are not very common during summers and cases are seen more during winter months. But this year we are seeing more cases of influenza,” said Dr Mamata Bothra, paediatrician and neonatalogist AT International Modern Hospital Dubai.

Doctors added that parents must supervise their kids’ water intake and monitor the urine colour to ensure they are hydrated.

“Among other reasons, this may also be due to increased intake of icy cold beverages by kids, rise in junk food intake as compared to healthy fruits and vegetables consumed in daily diet, erratic sleep schedule, less exercise, vitamin deficiencies especially vitamin D. All these have a negative impact on immunity,” Dr Bothra said.

Related Articles

Back to top button