Fight against influenza

PREVENTION

It’s that time of year to let your hair down and enjoy the rain; but don’t go overboard, because it is also the time when you are likely to catch infections.

Every year, the monsoon brings with it a whole spate of viral, bacterial, parasitic and infectious diseases that throws you off your routine. India being a tropical country, is a hot bed for infectious diseases such as influenza.

Influenza (often referred to as ‘flu’) is not to be confused with common cold — influenza can be fatal. Though both are respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses.

While a common cold is a mild respiratory condition, influenza is a severe infection of the respiratory tract that can lead to complications.

The misconception that influenza is just a “very bad cold” is dangerous as seasonal influenza is known to lead to serious health problems like pneumonia, and may even result in death.

Children are 2-3 times more likely to develop influenza than adults because of their less-developed immune systems. Studies show that the otherwise-healthy but unvaccinated children are prime targets for influenza. The flu vaccine helps children stay free of influenza during the ‘flu’ season, and potentially help stop the spread of the virus to family and community members.

Parents can safeguard their children by proactively giving them timely doses of the influenza vaccine. Though Bangalore has not been affected by any large scale pandemic in recent times, once a pandemic like H1N1 arrives, it is too late to take action. The trivalent vaccine is ideal as it protects against both swine flu and the seasonal strain of flu virus.

Get vaccinated  
WHO recommends flu vaccination to all risk groups, including children between six months to five years of age. The influenza vaccination is safe and effective to protect you and your family from flu. Since the virus and the vaccine changes every year, it is important to get a vaccination annually.

Frequent hand washing keeps germs out of the body, including the influenza virus. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitiser. Should you become infected, keep the germs from spreading by staying home — and don’t forget to take care of yourself!

Do the elbow cough  
Cough into elbows, not hands, where it’s more likely to spread bacteria and viruses through touch. Influenza in India still lacks awareness, importance and greater involvement of health planners. It deserves keeping in mind the seriousness of the disease and morbidity/mortality involved with it. As per the seasonality of influenza in India, we see a distinct peak during the monsoon period and hence greater awareness needs to be created to protect people from getting infected by flu.  

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