The Health July/August 2022 - Page 26

The flu is back so you and your family should stay protected

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THE HEALTH | JULY-AUGUST , 2022

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Seven reasons to get the flu shot

The flu is back so you and your family should stay protected

OVER the last two years , the Covid-19 preventive measures have reduced our exposure to infectious diseases . However , as the pandemic and associated social restrictions ease globally , we are seeing a rise in many common infectious diseases such as influenza or the flu .

What seems to be concerning is the speed at which infectious diseases such as hand , foot , and mouth disease ( HFMD ) and flu are returning into our community ever since Malaysia entered the transition to endemic phase beginning April 1 , 2022 .
Over the last few weeks , the media has reported confirmed cases of influenza and influenza-like illness ( ILI ) clusters in a boarding school in Selangor and schools in Kuala Lumpur ( Gombak ) and Ipoh . The Ministry of Health ’ s prompt action is commendable , but the situation remains worrisome .
The rising flu cases in the community indicates that flu has made a comeback and has real potential to spread . Other factors that favour infection spread are importation of flu cases through international travel , easing of Covid-19 SOPs and complacency with social restrictions .
We , the Malaysian Influenza Working Group ( MIWG ) comprising experts working together to improve the prevention , management , and control of influenza in Malaysia , are particularly concerned with the low population immunity due to lack of exposure to influenza over the last two years and the low flu vaccination uptake in Malaysia . This makes the population more susceptible to catching the flu and highrisk groups at risk of severe , prolonged , and even fatal diseases .
The Covid-19 pandemic taught us that vaccination might help make a significant difference . While Covid-19 SOPs must be maintained to prevent the flu , the World Health Organisation ( WHO ) encourages annual flu vaccination .
Here are seven reasons why you should get the flu shot for you and your family : 1 . Flu is contagious Unlike in temperate countries , influenza occurs throughout the year in Malaysia . Influenza spreads from person to person mainly by droplets up to about six feet away . Influenza can be easily transmitted in the community with rapid transmission in crowded areas such as schools and nursing homes .
The flu shot reduces flu-related illness and the risk of serious complications that can result in hospitalisation or death . In addition , the flu shot also prevents the spread of the virus in the community . 2 . Flu testing is not usually done While we have readily available test kits for Covid-19 , flu testing is not routinely done . Flu symptoms are similar to Covid-19 , but it is often an underestimated illness . It is also important to note that fever is not always present with influenza in people of any age , especially in older adults and people with weakened immune systems . Should you have underlying comorbidities , ignoring
The rising flu cases in the community indicates that flu has made a comeback and has real potential to spread . Other factors that favour infection spread are importation of flu cases through international travel , easing of Covid-19 SOPs and complacency with social restrictions .
these symptoms , and not seeking medical treatment can worsen the flu and certain underlying diseases . Give yourself one less thing to worry about in the current flu season by getting the flu shot , as it prevents severe disease and flu-related doctor ’ s visits . 3 . Flu can be severe and even fatal While most people who get the flu recover in a few days to less than two weeks , highrisk groups may develop life-threatening complications . High-risk groups comprise young children , pregnant women and up to two weeks after delivery , older persons , those with underlying chronic medical diseases such as diabetes , heart disease , history of stroke , chronic kidney disease , chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and those with a weakened immune system due to disease or treatment such as people with HIV , AIDS or cancer .
One of the serious complications of flu that will require hospitalisation is pneumonia which results from either flu infection or co-infection of the flu virus and bacteria . Flu can also lead to sepsis , a life-threatening response to infection that can rapidly progress to organ failure and death . In addition , damage to the cells in the lungs caused by the influenza virus and respiratory insufficiency results in acute respiratory distress syndrome ( ARDS ), which would require invasive ventilation ( breathing support ). 4 . Flu , like Covid-19 , hits older persons the hardest Older persons especially those with underlying chronic diseases are at risk of developing severe complications from the flu . This is due to changes in immune defences with increasing age making them more susceptible to infections . According to the US Centers for Disease Control , up to 85 per cent of flu-related deaths have occurred among people aged 65 years and older . The immediate complication of influenza is not the only worry ; the functional decline following hospitalisation for influenza can be persistent and catastrophic among older adults . Flu vaccination also protects the independence of the aged . According to WHO , the flu shot , and Covid-19 vaccination can be given together during the same visit . 5 . Flu can cause a heart attack When you catch the flu , the inflammatory response of your body ’ s first responders from its defence system causes unfavourable conditions in your body which may lead to the development of a heart attack . Studies have shown that flu illness is associated with increased heart attacks and stroke . A 2018 study found that the risk of having a heart attack was six times higher within a week of a confirmed flu infection . These findings were most
pronounced for older adults and those experiencing their first heart attack . The flu shot protects your heart . It reduces the risk of major cardiovascular events by 36 per cent . Besides this , there is a 45 per cent reduced risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes in patients with a recent history of acute coronary syndrome 6 . Flu can be dangerous for diabetics If you have diabetes ( type 1 , type 2 , or gestational ), the flu can be more than just a fever and respiratory symptoms . Flu can make it harder for you to control your blood sugar levels . You are at a higher risk of prolonged illness , hospitalisation and even death even though your diabetes is well-managed . In fact , studies have shown that people with diabetes are six times more likely to be hospitalised with flu complications . The annual flu shot reduces the risk of heart failure by 22 per cent stroke by 30 per cent , heart attack by 19 per cent and pneumonia by 15 per cent in people with diabetes . The flu shot is one of the important ways to manage your diabetes well . 7 . Pregnancy and the unborn child During pregnancy your body undergoes changes to the immune system , heart , and lungs making you more susceptible to influenza severe enough to cause hospitalisation throughout pregnancy and up to two weeks after delivery . Your unborn child is also at risk of developing complications from the flu such as neural tube defects , preterm birth and even death . The flu vaccination not only protects mum and the unborn child , but antibodies passed on from mum to baby in the womb will serve as protection for the first six months after birth until a baby is old enough for their first flu shot at six months onwards .
With the recent rise of flu cases in the community and the expectant new wave of Covid-19 in the upcoming months , flu prevention is crucial , or we may face a dual risk from two potentially life-threatening infectious diseases as currently evident in Australia . They are battling their first serious influenza outbreak since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic .
We have witnessed the power of an infectious disease like Covid-19 that caused major upheavals in the functioning of our society . Therefore , we should remain vigilant . There is no cause for panic . However , we urge Malaysians especially high-risk groups to prioritise flu prevention through vaccination and adhering to Covid-19 SOPs . — The Health
This is an article by the Malaysian Influenza Working Group ( MIWG ), a special interest group under the Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases & Chemotherapy . It is aligned with the Asia-Pacific Alliance for the Control of Influenza ( APACI ).