Health experts explain importance of getting flu shots

January 29, 2013 11:22 pm 

MANILA, Jan. 29 — Health experts from the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHA) say that the influenza (flu) viruses are capable of changing from season to season.

This means that the viruses are able to evade the body’s immune system by undergoing continuous genetic variation, such that vaccines are needed to be taken every year.

In a health forum on Tuesday, specialists on flu gathered to discuss what the public needed to know about the widespread viral disease, especially now that the flu season in the United States is shaping up to be worse than before.

They also appealed to the public about the importance of getting flu vaccines because “practically everybody needs to have one” to protect themselves.

The recent cold temperatures as low as 11 degrees Centigrade in Baguio City and 18 degrees in Metro Manila make the spread of flu easier from person to person.

According to Dr. Dennis Quiambao, Medical and Government Affairs manager of Sanofi Pasteur pharmaceutical company, flu is a serious public health problem that causes severe illness, hospitalization and even death mainly among high-risk groups.

Most susceptible to influenza are young children aged six to 23 months, the elderly residing in healthcare facilities and those chronically ill.

“Disease control and prevention will have important health and economic benefits,” Quiambao said, as it would prevent people from spending more on healthcare costs, lost days of work or education and general disruption of productivity.

He said that about five to 15 percent of the population are affected by upper respiratory tract infection in annual influenza epidemics.

Also, it is estimated that five to 10 percent of adults and 20 to 30 percent of children worldwide catch the flu each year while three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths every year occur worldwide.

Dr. Nancy Nazaire-Bermal, head of the Clinical Research and Development of Novartis Healthcare Philippines, said one of the main challenges in flu prevention is convincing patients to get vaccinated.

However, she said the most effective way against infection or complication from the illness is none other than prevention.

She said transmission of the virus can be effectively prevented by covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and washing hands regularly. (PNA)



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