Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Flu Concerns in Saudi Arabia

According to the Saudi Gazette, influenza is among the most common diseases that appear during the winter season. The influenza virus affects 30% of all children and 5-10% of adults in Saudi Arabia. The higher levels of prevalence of this virus in winter is caused by the fact that low temperatures and higher levels of humidity during this time provides conditions favorable to the virus.

How Easily Flu Spreads

Influenza is highly contagious. It can spread from direct contact as well as breathing contaminated air. It takes barely minutes for the virus to take hold after coming in contact with an uninfected person. The maximum period of incubation of the virus is two days, during which symptoms of fever, running nose and coughing, headaches and body or muscle pain and fatigue and nausea are common. Those segments of the population who are above the age of 65 as well as children below the age of two are particularly susceptible to the virus.

There are three types of seasonal flu that are categorized as type A, B or C. Type A flu virus is further classified into two types, AH1N1 and AH3N2. Most flu vaccines focus on type A and B as type C flu virus is less common. There is a difference between the child flu vaccine and adult flu vaccines. Children between the ages of 6 months to 8 years that have never had the vaccine before require two doses.

The trouble with treating or preventing the flu virus is that if one family member falls sick, that person can very easily (and usually does) infect the rest of the members of the family. Since the virus spreads through direct contact, simple actions such as using a TV remote, using a door handle and pressing an elevator button can be conduits for spreading the virus.

Flu Precautions in Saudi Arabia

Influenza vaccines are the primary weapon against flu. In Saudi Arabia, the vaccine is recommended during winter season. The Saudi Thoracic Society (STS) has created the Scientific Committee for Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccination (SCIPV) guidelines based on international recommendations on influenza vaccination best practices with special attention for specific situations like the Hajj and Umrah. The Saudi Ministry of Health has mandated that pilgrims are to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza before their arrival into Saudi Arabia, especially children against child flu. All persons aged above 6 months of age, including pregnant, and breastfeeding women must be vaccinated. 

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