DOCTORS have attributed an increase in cases of the seasonal flu in Bahrain to exposure to changing weather patterns.
Hospitals in the kingdom are reporting an average of 60 paediatric cases and more than 30 adult cases per day, with an estimated 75 per cent of patients complaining of upper respiratory ailments.
“With the return of children to school and the resumption of all pre-Covid activities, Bahrain is seeing an increase in flu-like symptoms, primarily in school-age students, who commonly show signs of fever, runny nose, sore throat, and cough,” said a senior family physician at the Health Ministry.
“The same has been reported among adults as well; scores of cases have been reported at the Salmaniya Medical Complex and the primary health centres and we know it is worrying people with symptoms similar to Covid-19.
“Nevertheless, investigations have continued to rule out Covid-19, with throat swabs and PCR tests showing an increased prevalence of influenza A and B and H1N1 of different strains.
“The similarity in the symptoms is expected with the continuous mutation of different strains of the virus and change of weather and, of course, with the Covid-19 precautions being lifted, leading to exposure.”
The GDN reported a drop in cases of seasonal flu among children last year, which medics cited was due to the limited exposure to the changing weather, awareness and early recognition of symptoms.
They noted it as ‘advantages’ of coronavirus (Covid-19) protocols as people were wearing face masks, washing hands and maintaining social distancing while being watchful of symptoms.
KIMS Health Hospital chief medical officer Dr Sajeev Kumar said that he has been treating an average of 40 to 50 cases daily at the paediatric out-patient department since early September.
“This is the annual flu season and a spike in cases is expected, but unfortunately this year cases have been unusually on the rise,” the senior specialist paediatrician told the GDN.
“This could be due to the alterations to immunity among people post-Covid-19 and from the exposure unlike the past two years.
“Esp-ecially children are now back in school and they are exposed to multiple viruses and are susceptible to infection.”
The Indian doctor added that the children displayed symptoms like high temperatures, conjunctivitis, headache and occasionally skin rashes.
He urged parents to keep children at home for first three days if they show symptoms.
“I have been personally attending to almost 50 flu cases daily, while more than 50pc of cases in the out-patient department (including adults) are diagnosed as cases of flu.
“If the symptoms persist consult a doctor as it could be flu or other infection including Covid-19.
“If temperature is higher than 39C for two days, and if there is wheezing, severe cough and body ache, immediate medical advice must be sought.”
More than 90pc of daily out-patients at the Shifa Al Jazeera Medical Clinic are seasonal flu cases with a good number of them being children, confirmed specialist paediatrician Dr Kunjimoosa Parappummal.
“With schools reopening, children getting exposed unlike in the past two years, flu cases are usually more this year,” he told the GDN.
“Also, relaxation of the precautionary measures like social distancing and face masks are also factors.”
He noted that some of these cases with upper respiratory symptoms like sore throat, body pain, vomiting and loose stools ‘could be’ Omicron infections.
“People are reluctant to do the Covid-19 test and instead they prefer to wait for two to three days to recover,” he pointed out.
All three doctors cited the need to take precautions to safely survive the flu season which could be ‘complicated’ otherwise.
“Let us stay committed to Covid-19 precautions – it will do us all good,” they added.
Bahrain has lifted all Covid-19 precautions since earlier this year with cases under control and more than 80pc of the population vaccinated against the infection.
The GDN reported earlier last month that more than 147,000 students returned to schools across Bahrain with 210 government schools reopened for in-person schooling after almost two years.