Keep the flu at bay

wellbeing

Seasonal influenza is an acute viral infection that spreads easily. Influenza viruses cause annual epidemics that peak during winter in temperate regions.

India witnesses two influenza peaks, one in winter and the other just after monsoon.
 Influenza occurs globally with an annual attack rate estimated at 20-30 per cent in children. Children less than five years of age have a high burden of influenza and related co-morbidities. 

Children not only fall in the category of high-risk influenza population, but are also the biggest carriers of influenza infection. Young children do not always practise good hand hygiene. They carry infection via both direct and /or indirect modes of transmission - hands and /or fomites. Children attending daycare centres and schools are principal transmitters. Studies have shown that the influenza virus could be detected on over 50 per cent of the fomites tested in daycare centres and homes during the influenza season.

To prevent and avoid influenza related discomfort, children need to be taught good hand hygiene – wash them before meals, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with dirty hands; and respiratory hygiene – covering the mouth and nose during coughing or sneezing with a tissue, or a sleeve or flexed elbow. These hygiene practices should be followed by vaccination with latest available strain to strengthen the prevention.

Besides children, adults aged 65 years or older, pregnant women and people of any age with certain medical conditions, such as chronic heart, lung, kidney, liver, blood or metabolic diseases (such as diabetes), or weakened immune systems also fall under high-risk population, susceptible to influenza-related complications. 
(The author is paediatrics consultant and chief, paediatric infectious diseases division, Manipal Hospital, Bangalore)

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