Flu shots advised as cases rise

By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter 

FLU SEASON is far from over, with on-and-off rains continuing until November. Basic hygiene habits like hand washing and physical distancing can protect individuals against the influenza virus, doctors said.  

“Much like other infectious diseases, the flu is highly preventable through strict compliance with public health and safety regulations and the practice of basic hygiene habits whether in school or the office,” said Dr. Gyneth Lourdes G. Bibera, country medical director of GlaxoSmithKline Philippines, Inc., in an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld.  

“Other than those, I would say that getting vaccinated is probably one of the most effective steps in preventing the spread of influenza viruses,” she added.  

According to the Department of Health (DoH), there were 57,083 influenza-like cases reported Jan.Aug., a 15% increase from the same period last year.  

Getting a proper diagnosis from a physician is advised since flu symptoms are similar to those of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.  

Influenza can be managed at home through guidelines provided by the DoH:  

  • Use of antiviral agents within the first two days (best to consult a physician);  
  • Paracetamol for fever (but no aspirin for children); 
  • Antibiotics to be given only to complications of influenza such as pneumonia;  
  • Adequate rest; and  
  • Increased intake of fluids and nutritious foods.  

“The safest and most fool-proof way to treat influenza is to consult your physician for medical guidance,” said Dr. Bibera.  

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended annual flu vaccination due to viruses varying from season to season.   

“Every year, flu vaccines are formulated to protect against the viruses that research suggests will be most common,” said Dr. Bibera. “Ideally, people should be getting their flu vaccines from February to May before the flu season starts.”  

In September, the Philippine College of Geriatric Medicine released a statement asking the government to improve flu vaccination for senior citizens, who are most vulnerable to life-threatening circumstances when exposed to the illness.  

A 2020 study on flu in the Philippines determined that flu season in the country lasts from June to November, with a peak in August. It also found that the cost of hospitalization from being gravely ill from the flu can range from P10,000 to P30,000 per episode. 

“By getting vaccinated now, we can ensure our and our families’ protection as early as possible,” Dr. Bibera said.  

She added that since viral diseases usually start with flu-like symptoms, being protected can help dispel unwarranted anxiety and unnecessary costs.

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