Beware the flu when travelling to winter destinations


It’s the vacation season!

Some of you’ll be travelling overseas for a much-needed getaway over the Christmas, New Year or Chinese New Year durations.

Malaysia will even be seeing an inflow of vacationers from throughout the world throughout this time.

What a refreshing change from the restrictions of the final two years.

Mind you, Covid-19 shouldn’t be gone but, and everybody nonetheless wants to guard in opposition to it.

However, there’s one other looming respiratory sickness that would smash your holidays, not to point out your well being as nicely.

It is none aside from influenza.

Also generally known as the flu, this infectious illness shouldn’t be one thing to sneeze at (pardon the pun).

This is particularly in case you are aged 65 or older, and extra so you probably have diabetes, kidney illness and/or different persistent well being situations.

The flu could cause acute respiratory misery, pneumonia, in addition to a bunch of different severe problems.

It can even improve the danger of a coronary heart assault by greater than 10 instances in the first week of catching the flu.

The danger of a stroke can also double or triple throughout the first two weeks of an an infection.

And let’s not neglect that coronary heart assault, pneumonia and stroke had been ranked as the second, third and fourth main causes of demise (after Covid-19) in Malaysia final 12 months (2021).

Outbreak in the North

In gentle of this, advisor paediatrician and paediatric heart specialist Professor Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail advises warning in case you are planning to go to the northern hemisphere the place flu circumstances are surging right now.

The Immunise4Life Technical Committee chairman explains: “While the flu circulates all year round in Malaysia, temperate countries tend to have their flu season in the winter months – Decem-ber to March in the northern hemisphere, and June to August in the south.

“This year, however, flu season started early in the northern hemisphere.

“Cases have been increasing dramatically since October and have already overtaken the number of cases reported this time last year.

“The rise is expected to continue and we can expect a rough flu season in most northern destinations that are popular with Malaysian vacationers.”

Immunise4Life is an initiative to promote life course vaccination by the Health Ministry, Malaysian Paediatric Association and the Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases & Chemotherapy.

As of Dec 2 (2022), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated 8.7 million Americans had been contaminated, 78,000 hospitalised, and 4,500 lifeless from flu-related causes.

It has been known as the nation’s “worst flu outbreak in a decade” by media retailers.

Meanwhile, the French Public Health Agency has declared a flu epidemic in three areas in France, whereas figuring out one other 5 – together with Paris and its surrounding areas – to be in a pre-epidemic part.

In its first winter replace this 12 months (2022), the UK National Health Service (NHS) reported a median of 344 flu sufferers in hospital per day in a single week – 10 instances greater than the quantity seen at the starting of December 2021.

Over in the East Asia, the well being authorities of South Korea, Taiwan and Japan are additionally expressing concern over the steadily rising variety of flu circumstances, amid mounting fears of a attainable twindemic – the concurrent unfold of flu and Covid-19.

Danger all over the place

Consultant infectious ailments doctor Datuk Dr Christopher Lee feels that travellers would do nicely to perceive how flu viruses get round.

The Malaysian Influenza Working Group member says: “Picture yourself enjoying the crisp, chilly outdoors.

“Before long, you hastily make your way into a cosy café, joining other patrons warming up over steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

“It all sounds wonderful, except that you are more likely to catch the flu indoors during winter.

“By coughing, sneezing or speaking, infected persons can send flu viruses circulating inside the crowded and poorly-ventilated environment.

“You might also pick up flu viruses that have settled onto the tabletops, door handles and other surfaces.

“Depending on your proximity to the source and duration of exposure, you might end up with a full-blown bout of the flu, and waste your precious holiday time in bed or in hospital.”

He provides: “Now, let’s say you managed to evade the flu throughout the trip.

“Don’t be too quick to think you are flying home flu-free.

“On board the plane, you have an 80% chance of getting the flu if there is an infected person – who may or may not have symptoms – sitting one row in front or behind you, within two seats to either side.

“Additionally, flu viruses can survive for up to 48 hours on certain surfaces, including your overhead compartment handle, seat-belt buckle, video screen, food tray, armrest and control panel.

“You might try disinfecting these items.

“However, it would be impractical to disinfect everything you will touch when you land, such as your luggage bag, trolley, the toilet flush, car door handle and so on.”

Prevention suggestions

Dr Lee advises: “Follow the Covid-19 SOPs when possible.

“Masking, although no longer promoted in most countries, may help reduce the chances of catching the flu.

“It is, however, less effective when those around you are not masked.

“The additional protection conferred by the annual flu vaccination is therefore recommended to prevent the disease.

“When injected, the vaccine introduces inactivated flu viruses into the body.

“These have been killed and are unable to cause disease.

“However, they stimulate your body to produce antibodies that will spring to your defence if you happen to be exposed to the flu.

“Allow two weeks to reach the desired level of immunity before flying off.”

Like Covid-19 vaccination, flu vaccination helps forestall extreme illness, hospitalisation and demise.

Flu vaccination can also be related to a 34% decrease danger of main opposed cardiovascular occasions.

There was additionally an 18% diminished danger of demise reported in sufferers with coronary heart failure.

In individuals with sort 2 diabetes, flu vaccination has been related to a diminished danger of coronary heart failure by 22%, stroke by 30%, coronary heart assault by 19% and pneumonia by 15%.

Noting that flu viruses mutate always, Dr Lee provides that at the moment out there flu vaccines have been up to date to successfully combat virus sub-types which might be circulating in the northern hemisphere right now.

He says: “This will help reduce your risk of contracting the disease.

“The flu vaccination is not only recommended for those travelling abroad, but also for everyone in general, especially high-risk groups, as the importation of flu cases through air travel can result in the spread of flu within the community.

“So, if you have not been vaccinated against the flu, now is a good time to get it done.

“The annual flu vaccination is your passport to healthy holidays – don’t leave home without it.”

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