Health experts explain why now is the time to get vaccinated – and how to avoid catching flu
4 December 2018| Last updated on 4 December 2018
All credits: PA
The flu season is just around the corner, and with cases of the virus already starting to appear, now is the best time to get yourself protected...
Flu is a nasty and potentially dangerous infection, and its impact is often underestimated - especially when large numbers of the world's population die due to flu-related causes, including complications such as pneumonia arising from an initial flu infection.
Most – although not all – of those who become seriously ill are in at-risk groups. And while the peak flu season doesn’t usually begin until December, now is the best time to get vaccinated, as it takes between 10-14 days for the immune system to respond fully afterwards.
Professional's from the UK's NHS says that, while the optimum time to have a flu vaccine is from the beginning of October to the end of November, if you have the vaccine later, it will still offer some protection... And this also applies to UAE residents currently facing cooler temperatures across the country.
Expatriate residents in Dubai are able to get their seasonal influenza vaccinations for 40 - 80 Dhs per person at over 76 primary healthcare centres across the emirate. For Emiratis, the flu vaccine shots are available free of charge.
Each year, the viruses most likely to cause flu are identified and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends which type of strains to include in the vaccine. To help prevent capturing and spreading the flu, residents are encouraged to practice good hand hygiene - and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, then throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
Here's 10 facts about the flu you probably didn't know...
1. When someone with flu coughs or sneezes, expelled droplets can infect people up to 6ft away.
2. In the UAE, the annual flu season runs between December and February.
3. Flu leads to thousands of doctor visits and hundreds of hospital stays a year. But, if you’re otherwise healthy, the virus will usually clear up on its own within a week.
4. The flu virus is extremely variable and changes over time. Each year there are different strains around, and a new vaccine has to be prepared to deal with them. Vaccination from previous years isn’t likely to protect people against current strains of flu.
5. In the UK, Oxford University’s Vaccine Knowledge Project says there are three basic types of flu: A, B and C. Type A is the most dangerous and can cause serious disease and trigger worldwide pandemics. Type B can make you feel very ill, but has never led to a pandemic, and Type C causes mild disease.
6. Typically, effectiveness of the flu vaccine is in the range of 30-60%. Doctors stress having a flu vaccination won’t stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free. However, if you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.
7. Side-effects of the nasal vaccine may include a runny or blocked nose, headache, tiredness and loss of appetite. The injected vaccine may have side-effects including a sore arm at the site of the injection, a low-grade fever and aching muscles for a day or two after the vaccination. Serious side-effects with either the nasal spray or jab are extremely rare.
8. The European Commission estimates more deaths are caused by flu than by car accidents each year. Yet, around 100 million people recommended for the flu jab annually don’t take it up despite recommendations from the World Health Organisation.
9. Research from the Universities of Lincoln and Nottingham in the UK suggests the flu vaccine can reduce the risk of having a stroke by about a quarter.