Medicine Cabinet

Cold and changing weather increase our risk of getting sick with seasonal flu (or simply “the flu”). Caused by the influenza virus, the flu is among the leading causes of illness in the country, according to the Department of Health (DoH). From Jan. 1 to June 30, 2018, the DoH Epidemiology Bureau recorded nearly 60,000 influenza-like illness cases nationwide.
Seasonal flu signs and symptoms include sudden onset of fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise (feeling unwell), sore throat and a runny nose. The cough can be severe and can last two or more weeks. Most people recover from fever and other symptoms within a week without requiring medical attention. But influenza can also cause severe illness or death especially in high-risk people, warns the World Health Organization (WHO).
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that children younger than 5 years and children of any age with certain long-term health problems are at high risk of complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. Some health problems that are known to make children more vulnerable to graver illnesses include asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system. In industrialized countries, most deaths associated with influenza occur among people age 65 or older.
Seasonal flu epidemics can result in high levels of worker and school absenteeism and productivity losses. Clinics and hospitals can be overwhelmed during peak illness periods.
The flu can spread quickly. It is transmitted via droplets from an infected person through coughing, talking and sneezing, and through contact with the surfaces, material and clothing contaminated with discharges of an infected person. To prevent the spread of flu infection, the DoH recommends that a person sick with influenza be provided with a separate room. Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Avoid crowded places. Stay away from people who are coughing or are sick with influenza. People with flu may be able to infect others from one day before going sick to up to five to seven days after. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
The most effective way to prevent the disease is vaccination, according to the WHO. Safe and effective flu vaccines are available and have been used for more than 60 years. Immunity from vaccination wanes over time so annual vaccination is recommended to protect against influenza. The DoH recommends influenza vaccination preferably administered between February and June every year. The WHO recommends annual vaccination for pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy; children aged 6 months and older; the elderly (aged more than 65 years); individuals with chronic medical conditions (e.g. diabetes); and health care workers.
The CDC cited the following benefits of flu vaccination:

• It can keep you and your loved ones from getting sick;

• It can keep you from being hospitalized from flu;

• It also may make your illness milder if you do get sick; and

• Getting yourself and your family members vaccinated also can protect others.

Knowing more about flu, its treatment and prevention can keep you and your loved ones healthy. For more information, consult your doctor.
Teodoro B. Padilla is executive director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). PHAP and its member companies represent the research-based pharmaceutical and health care industry.