A change of season and Flu

During this time of the year, it is not uncommon to find your family, friends and colleagues down with the flu. It seems everywhere around, someone is either coughing or sneezing or suffering from a fever.

The annual health bulletin record on respiratory diseases show a yearly increase in common cold, tonsillitis, pneumonia or other respiratory diseases.

The recent data collected for the week from April 21-27, by Public Health Laboratory on flu view, a weekly influenza surveillance report, ‘Influenza-like-illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) Surveillance’ shows the incidence of ILI and SARI for the week was 35 out of 1,000 outpatient visits and 5 out of 100 hospitalized patients respectively.

The data collected is week 17 data of the year. However, average number of ILI cases reported for the week is lower compared to the previous week. With the existing data till date, data collected on week 16 reported highest number of ILI cases while highest SARI number of cases were reported during 15th week.

The incidence of ILI cases were reported highest from Phuentsholing and Gelephu hospital with 136 cases and 91 cases respectively and SARI were from Paro and Tsirang hospital.

The ILI cases were observed most commonly among age group 15-29 years and SARI cases between 0-1 age groups.

The virological surveillance reports, of the total 26 samples received and tested by real time PCR, 6 out of 26 samples which come to 23.07% were positive for influenza viruses.

Talking to health ministry’s Director General of Medical Services, Dr Ugen Dophu, said there is no such thing as a seasonal trend, but normally a human being suffers 4-5 attacks of flu in a year. “From that, you can make out that you suffer once, so you have immunity for 3-4 months, then your immunity goes down, that’s why you are susceptible to the next infection,” said Dr Dophu.

“The trend is with the change in the season, people do get flu but it can happen in between also to those people who didn’t suffer during the change of season. Therefore, some suffer in the middle of the seasons,” he added.

The most common symptoms of flu are fever which may be high or low, cough, running nose, irritation of throat, body aches and pains.

“Normally, they are self-limiting disease, so you have to suffer for 5-7 days and it will cure by itself but in some cases because of the flu, people say they lose appetite, so your immunity goes down further.

That time, secondary bacterial infection of throat, tonsillitis and other parts of the body may occur,” Dr Dophu said. Doctors advise people to get a check up for secondary bacterial infection in the hospital after 7 days of fighting the flu.

“During that time, there might be a need of antibiotics, but flu itself can be managed by paracetamol and by taking care from cold winds and not drinking cold water and taking proper care,” added Dr Dophu.

Influenza, an acute viral infection, affects all age groups but the very young, very old, and people with already existing diseases like, cancers, HIV and so on, are vulnerable to it.

One can prevent the virus from spreading by following proper hand washing, using handkerchief while coughing or sneezing, and by throwing sputum in a proper place. A good rest and an appropriate healthy diet are also a must in fighting off the infection.

Tashi Deki / Thimphu


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