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Health Education

What you need to know about the flu virus?

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While COVID-19 is making headlines with the increasing number of cases around the world, we should not neglect the dangers posed by its familiar counterpart – the influenza (flu) virus. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a type of coronavirus while the flu virus is part of the orthomyxovirus family. Flu viruses are a major determinant in the number of deaths caused by respiratory disease and outbreaks of infection could lead to worldwide epidemics. It is noteworthy that influenza is prevalent throughout the year, but peaks in certain months.

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that worldwide, influenza epidemics result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness with about 290 000 to 650 000 respiratory deaths1. In Singapore, during the Influenza A H1N1 pandemic in 2009, there were at least 270,000 infected cases, and 18 deaths2.

 

While COVID-19 may eventually pass, influenza is a very real threat that is present all the time. Most people do recover from the flu virus, but those in the higher risk groups may succumb to the disease.

 

There are also test kits available to determine if a patient has the flu virus, providing results within 15 minutes. These test kits are available at some of our Frontier clinics for a quick diagnosis.

 

Antivirals vs antibiotic

The main treatment for flu is supportive, meaning the doctor will prescribe medications for your symptoms e.g. fever, cough, runny nose etc2. Antivirals are available and have been shown to reduce symptoms within a day. They can also help reduce the severity of the infection, reducing the risk of hospitalisation and complication. However, they are usually recommended for the high-risk groups with weakened immune systems. Antibiotics are only indicated if your doctor suspects there may be a concurrent bacterial infection.

 

Getting vaccinated

As the old adage goes – prevention is better than cure. The best ‘medicine’ for influenza is still the flu jab. CDC recommends individuals aged 6 months and above to get the jab, with those below 9 years old requiring 2 doses, 4 weeks apart, if they are getting vaccinated for the first time2,3. The vaccine contains components of the prevailing flu strains, and these are updated every 6 to 12 months. Thus, the recommended frequency of vaccination is at least yearly.

 

Age

Doses

Interval

6 months to 9 years old

First time

2

4 weeks apart

Subsequently

1

Yearly

Above 9 years old

1

Yearly

 

 

While it’s not fool-proof, flu vaccinations have been proven to reduce the risk of contracting the virus, and reducing the severity of the infection, if contracted4. By doing so, it will help the doctor eliminate the suspicion of influenza and avoid the delay of diagnosing COVID-19.

 

Extension of Subsidies for Influenza vaccination at CHAS GP clinic

 

With effect from 1 Nov 2020, patients who fulfil the criteria of  recommendation groups for influenza vaccinations under the National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS) and the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS) will be eligible for government subsidies, use of chronic CHAS and Medisave to further reduce the out of pocket cost when you get vaccinated.

 

All our clinics are CHAS clinics and we carry the latest influenza vaccine. Speak to our staff and doctors to find out more.

 

References:

1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)

2. https://www.ncid.sg/Health-Professionals/Diseases-and-Conditions/Pages/Influenza.aspx

3. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention and control of influenza with vaccines, Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Recomm Rep 2010; 59(RR-8): 1-62.

4. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm

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dr laura lim

Dr Lim Xiu Mei Laura

Frontier Medical Associates (Admiralty)

 

Publication: 18th October 2020

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