Citizens and residents have been urged to take precautionary measures as well as vaccines amidst a surge in seasonal flu cases across the country.
The Health Ministry yesterday called on people, especially the elderly and those with chronic diseases, to opt for the flu jab.
Bahrain’s hospitals are reportedly recording a spike in flu cases, which experts attribute to exposure to changing weather patterns. The GDN reported earlier this month that hospitals in the kingdom were witnessing 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.
“If you are suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, neurological disorders, chronic heart, liver or kidney diseases, chronic pulmonary diseases like asthma, hereditary blood diseases like Sickle Cell Disease, or if you are 65 years and above or aged between six months and five years, avail the seasonal flu vaccine,” the ministry said in a statement.
BDF hospital microbiologist Lieutenant Colonel Dr Manaf Al Qahtani backed the ministry’s appeal, adding that a face mask could offer an extra layer of protection from viruses.
The senior Bahraini medic, who is also the monitoring committee head of the National Taskforce to Combat Covid-19, reiterated the need to develop a culture of good health and hygiene to tackle the flu season.
“In my view, making face masks compulsory is not the best and sustainable solution. We need to develop a culture of awareness among members of society to help limit the harm from infection,” he said on Twitter.
He also dismissed concerns of swineflu in Bahrain, citing that H1N1 was just another strain of a seasonal virus.
“H1N1 is a seasonal virus, like other types of influenza virus that spreads more frequently at the beginning of each season,” he said.
“The term ‘swine flu’ is no longer used in Bahrain, it has been abolished.
“All the symptoms of seasonal influenza viruses are similar, and the methods of treatment and prevention are the same.”
Swine flu was the popular name for the virus which was responsible for a global flu outbreak in 2009-2010. The symptoms were similar to that of seasonal flu and included fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who were infected with this virus also had reported diarrhoea and vomiting. Once a serious concern, swine flu is now under control, yet, people can and do get sick from it, and hence annual flu shot is crucial, according to global studies.
Dr Al Qahtani further explained that among influenza viruses, the seasonal ones were those that could mutate continuously and at a certain time (hence known as annual) while there were also the non-seasonal viruses.
“Seasonal viruses are of two types – A and B, of which type A is widespread today. It has the ability to radically mutate in human and animal bodies, and the symptoms are sometimes severe and may result in a pandemic, as it has happened in the past,” Dr Al Qahtani said.
“Type B is found only in humans and does not lead to a pandemic, but its symptoms are less severe and the sickness period is short.”
The non-seasonal virus is Type C, which, he explained, is less severe than Type A and B and causes mild influenza in humans.
“The flu vaccine available in the kingdom is effective against circulating strains of the virus, as determined by the World Health Organisation,” Dr Al Qahtani said.
“As for Tamiflu pills, it is a therapeutic drug for group A and B influenza viruses and is used in some cases to prevent the disease, as determined by a specialist doctor.”
Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) is an antiviral drug which works by attacking flu virus to keep it from multiplying in the body and by reducing symptoms.