The Flu is caused by the human influenza virus which causes this epidemic every year. The viral infection mainly affects the respiratory system. There is a different (but similar) virus responsible of what is known as stomach flu which causes symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. However, it is not going to be the focus of this article.
Flu usually causes fever, cough, a runny nose, muscular pains, fatigue and headaches. These symptoms are usually very manageable and most cases tend to resolve themselves. However, some individuals are much more vulnerable than others and can be at a greater risk. These individuals are usually: Children under the age of 5, adults older than 65, adults in nursing homes or other high risk environments, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems (HIV, transplant patients, etc). people with chronic diseases and individuals with a BMI≥40.
Flu causes up to 650.000 deaths worldwide each year. So, if you are vulnerable, then you should get vaccinated. If you are not vulnerable, you should be able to get better from the flu without putting your life in danger.
The flu vaccine is meant to provide protection against the virus and if you are already infected and presenting symptoms then it is already too late to obtain any benefits from it.
Used correctly, the vaccine can reduce the risk of disease from 40% to 60%.
There are 3 different kinds of vaccine, meant for different kind of people and situations.
For children from 2 to 17 years old, there is the live quadrivalent vaccine administered as a nasal spray.
For adults from 18 to 65, there’s a quadrivalent vaccine in the form of an injection.
For those over 65 years old, a trivalent vaccine has proven to be highly effective.
This vaccine is the most effective method currently available to protect humans against the Influenza virus. After many years of use, this method proved to be safe. If you are planning to take the vaccine, the best time to do it is between the months of September to November.
Allergies and Reactions
Only people with allergies to some of the vaccine’s components are at risk and should avoid it. People with egg allergy may experience a reaction against the vaccine; this is because some are made using egg as a key component. Severe side effects are extremely rare; however, mild muscular pain and a temporarily sore arm are more common.
If you are experiencing symptoms like fever, is best to delay vaccination until you have recovered.
Also, people under antibiotic treatment are allowed to be vaccinated.
Flu Vaccine in Pakistan
Pakistan has a flu season each year from September to February. This year (2018) there was a considerable rise in the population’s concern about flu.
At this moment, Pakistan is particularly vulnerable. Not only patients, doctors are frequently without their flu vaccinations (which is contrary to good practices). Pakistan’s vaccination program is not optimal, which makes their population more prone to infection and epidemics. The main reasons for this are the following:
High cost of vaccines
Lack of knowledge about vaccine availability
Unavailability of vaccines due to storage problems
Insufficient staff to administrate vaccine to patients
Lack of understanding of immunization guidelines by health professionals
Parents not allowing their children to be vaccinated
All these factors together have allowed a preventable increase in the incidence of flu and several other infectious diseases among the general population.
The main actions that the government has been advised to take is to start subsidizing vaccination and promote good practices among health professionals and awareness among the general population. Hopefully these measures will be enough to cause a noticeable change.