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Increased risk of influenza

By Ayoki Onyango | May 4th 2016
Dr. Joseph Aluoch

That there is an outbreak of influenza, commonly known as flu in parts of Rift Valley, that has so far claimed 39 lives and hospitalisation of many people comes as no surprise.

The weathermen had predicted the onset of a cold season that would result in diseases such as influenza and pneumonia. Medics had also predicted the same.

The outbreak also confirmed a survey and research done by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), which indicated that influenza viruses are present in Kenya throughout the year but usually peak during the cold weather from April to August.

Further, as this weather persists cases of respiratory diseases such as asthma, pneumonia, flu and common colds are expected to be on the increase. This cold weather will also result in more sore throats, coughs, aches, pains, tiredness and headaches.

“So when in the next few days you wake up sneezing, coughing, feeling all achy, feverish and like you cannot move a muscle you may have caught the virus responsible for causing influenza or have the common cold,” says Dr Joseph Aluoch, chest specialist and chairman, HIV Clinicians Society of Kenya.

Dr Aluoch says while many people think the flu and common cold are one and the same thing, nothing could be further from the truth.

“The common cold is a milder respiratory illness compared to the flu. Also, while symptoms of the common cold clear up after a few days, a person with the flu can be afflicted for weeks and it can lead to more serious conditions such as pneumonia,” he says. Another defining difference is that while the common cold usually develops slowly, the flu tends to come about suddenly.

Its symptoms include high fever, aching muscles - especially in your back, arms and legs, chills and sweats, headache, dry, persistent cough, fatigue and weakness, nasal congestion and sore throat.

“When people get these symptoms they usually wrongly diagnose themselves as having malaria and buy anti-malarial drugs without consulting a doctor,” Dr Aluoch says.

Because no amount of antibiotics will help in the treatment of flu, the doctor says the best option in prevention of influenza is through vaccination.

“Because the viruses have the potential to change and gain the ability to spread easily between people, monitoring human infection and person-to-person spread is extremely important for public health,” Dr Aluoch says.

He continues: “This is where the seasonal flu vaccine comes in handy since it has the potential to control the spread or the outbreak of flu pandemics”.

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