Dubai: If you’ve had an itchy throat or a sudden fever, beware: it’s ‘flu season’.
Earlier this month, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DoH) stated that seasonal flu case rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels in Abu Dhabi, and one of the most effective ways to ensure you stay healthy is by getting an influenza vaccine or ‘flu shot’. Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have been raising awareness about the need to get vaccinated and follow basic precautions to stay healthy during the changing seasons.
According to the Department of Health, the flu vaccine is updated annually to ensure continued immunity. People are protected for up to two weeks from the date they receive the vaccine, and it is recommended that people older than six months receive a single dose of the vaccines annually. The Department of Health recommends that children age nine and younger be given two doses, with an interval between doses of four weeks or more.
How can I get a flu shot in the UAE?
Abu Dhabi residents can get a free flu shot at any of the Emirate’s public health centers. You can go to any of the health centers, and simply provide your Emirates ID and health card to receive the vaccine, without the need to book an appointment.
Dubai residents can get their flu shot at any of the health centers operated by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). To book an appointment, you will need an MRN (Medical Record Number).
If you received a COVID-19 vaccine through a DHA vaccine center in the last two years, you would already have an MRN number. In case you don’t have an MRN number, you can also create one by following these steps:
How to create a Medical Record Number (MRN):
Your MRN is required when booking your COVID-19 vaccine appointment:
• Visit the DHA website www.dha.gov.ae or this direct link: https://bit.ly/MRN_E
• Enter your Emirates ID number.
• Enter the OTP received on your registered mobile number
• Enter your details
• Submit your request
To make an appointment for your flu shot, you can download the ‘DHA’ smartphone app, which is available for Apple and Android devices, or call the DHA hotline at 800 DHA (342).
The vaccine costs 50 dirhams. However, it is free for some categories of Dubai residents, such as those over 65 years of age, determined people, residents suffering from chronic diseases, children under the age of five, and pregnant women.
Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain
If you are a resident of any of the Northern Emirates (Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain), you can visit an Emirates Health Services (EHS) health center to receive a flu shot.
The vaccine costs 50 dirhams. However, it is free for some categories of UAE residents, such as those over 65 years of age, determined people and residents suffering from chronic diseases, children under five years of age, and pregnant women.
How the flu spreads
Because seasonal influenza is a contagious, acute respiratory infection, it’s important to know how it spreads so you can take the necessary precautions. According to the DHA, these are the different ways the virus spreads:
• Direct mode of transmission: Droplets spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
• Indirect mode of transmission: Touching contaminated hands or objects and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms you experience when infected with the influenza virus can range from mild to severe. According to DHA, there may be cases where a flu infection leads to more serious health complications, such as bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinusitis, or worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
“Symptoms usually go away within a week, without any medical intervention. However, it can cause serious illness requiring hospitalization and can lead to serious complications, particularly among certain high-risk groups,” the DHA said in an online posting Oct. 22.
Here are some of the symptoms that indicate you have the flu:
• Sudden onset of fever
• Muscle and joint pain
• Sore throat and runny nose.
• Younger children may experience vomiting and diarrhea
High risk categories
• Pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy.
• Children from 6 months to 5 years.
• Older than 65 years.
• Individuals with chronic medical conditions such as chronic heart, lung, kidney, neurodevelopmental, liver or hematologic diseases.
• Health workers
How to prevent seasonal flu
According to the health authorities of the United Arab Emirates, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the disease. However, here are some steps provided by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP), which you should also follow to avoid getting infected:
1. Get a flu shot
2. Wash and sanitize your hands regularly
3. Follow good respiratory hygiene practices. For example, use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it away immediately afterward.
4. Isolate yourself early if you have a fever or show other flu symptoms to avoid infecting others.
5. Avoid close contact with sick people.
6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth too often.
7. Clean and sanitize frequently used surfaces and tools.