The flu and acute respiratory infections have been on the rise in recent weeks, a situation that healthcare professionals consider “unusual.” They are calling for increased vigilance and not to trivialize symptoms due to the complications they can cause.
More than 27,000 cases of the flu have been officially reported in public hospitals and health centers, and this number is constantly increasing according to the Ministry of Health. From 3,593 cases during the first week of August, the number has risen to 5,593. This increase is also notable in private medical consultations, as supported by Dr. Ishaq Jowahir, president of the Private Medical Practitioners Association (PMPA), and Dr. Radhika Jagatsingh, a pediatrician. They believe that this “unusual” situation can be attributed to several factors contributing to the increase in cases of flu and acute respiratory infections.
The weather conditions with climate change are cited as an important factor since dry and cold weather promotes virus circulation, explains Dr. Fazil Khodabocus, a public health physician at the Ministry of Health. In addition, the alternating periods of cold and hot weather experienced this winter are also factors to be considered. Dr. Ishaq Jowahir adds that current flu cases seem to persist longer, which raises questions about recorded cases of COVID-19 as well as the circulation of new subvariants of Omicron such as XBB1.9.1 and XBB1.9.2 or even XBB1.16- nicknamed “Arcturus,” out of 34 samples collected between July 17th and August 5th.
Pediatrician Radhika Jagatsingh admits that the increase in flu cases is “difficult to understand” due to various changes in parameters such as climate conditions, dietary habits, and resumption of activities among others.She notes that even though temperatures are less cold, many children have contracted the flu nonetheless. After undergoing a COVID-19 test, their results were negative, she asserts. She wonders if this resurgence is due to a return to normal daily activities, especially with the return to in-person schooling and work. The pediatrician also believes that it is necessary to examine the dietary habits of children, whose immune systems could be weakened by an iron deficiency, according to her.
Dr. Khodabocus points out that acute respiratory infections are highly contagious and easily transmitted when someone coughs or sneezes without covering their mouth and nose. He also notes that some people present with allergies caused by the flowering of certain plants, presenting symptoms such as cough or rhinitis.
Cases of secondary infections have also been observed in private consultations, explained Dr. Jowahir. These cases can lead to complications such as pneumonia, throat infection, bronchitis, or sinusitis. Dr. Khodabocus warns against the misuse or self-prescription of antibiotics which should only be prescribed in case of bacterial superinfection specifically for bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infection (otitis), and pneumonia. These serious infections can occur; hence the importance of remaining vigilant.
It is essential not to trivialize respiratory infections as they can lead to complications especially in children under 5 years old, elderly people, pregnant women,and individuals with chronic diseases (cancer，diabetes,hypertension，asthma), who are particularly vulnerable to these infections,says Dr.Jowahir and Dr.Khodabocus.Healthy individuals need to strengthen their immune system through consuming fruits and vegetables and engaging in regular physical activity.
Boosting Children’s Immune System
“It is preferable to spend money on healthy food rather than on treatments and purchasing medications,” remarks Dr.Radhika Jagatsingh who notes an unusual increase in flu cases among children.She wonders if there is frequent misuse of antibiotics during their various treatments or if their diet is healthy and balanced.”Due to the cost of living, it is possible that savings are made by reducing the quality of food products for children, such as milk,” she points out. The pediatrician believes that babies as young as 6 months old sometimes consume cow’s milk instead of breast milk or specially formulated milk for children, leading to iron deficiency and weakening their immune system.Therefore, Dr.Jagatsingh considers this a “false economy” since she believes it is essential to ensure that children have everything they need to strengthen their immune system and resist infections.She advocates for a healthy and balanced diet prepared at home rather than relying on fast food. Meals should include fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Flu vs COVID-19
With the flu and COVID-19 circulating, it is difficult to determine whether one has contracted either disease since the symptoms are almost similar: runny nose, fever, sore throat, dry cough, and body aches.However,in the case of COVID-19,the loss of sense of smell must also be taken into account.only a COVID-19 screening test can definitively determine whether a person has the flu or COVID-19.