GET VACCINATED TO PROTECT YOUNG AND ELDERLY FROM INFLUENZA
DEC 20, 2019 @ 11.27AM
Protect your most vulnerable members – young children and ageing parents – from the dangers of influenza (the flu) by getting them vaccinated against the disease.
Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali who was speaking at the launch of the 'Flu Prevention is an Act of Love' campaign pointed out that the flu is particularly dangerous to pregnant women, children under 5 years old, adults over 65 and people with health conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease..
The campaign organised by Immunise4Life (IFL), in association with the Malaysian Influenza Working Group (MIWG) and the Vaccination is Protection (VIP) initiative is community education programme involving the collaboration of Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH), Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA), and Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases & Chemotherapy (MSIDC).
In addition, she said it is vital for everyone in these high-risk groups to get vaccinated against the flu, adding that she and her husband, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, make it a point to get their flu vaccinations every year.
According to Professor Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, the committee chairman for IFL, children and adults are constantly under threat from a host of vaccine-preventable diseases including the flu, pneumococcal disease, meningitis, chicken pox, and so on.
"Unfortunately, uptake of these additional recommended vaccines is low, especially in relation to the flu. Many individuals do not see the need to vaccinate because they confuse the flu (caused by influenza viruses) with the common cold (caused by rhinovirus and other viruses). This is a deadly mistake because, unlike the cold which is harmless, the flu can kill.
“Both infections share similar symptoms, like a cough, sore throat and runny nose. Trouble is, people fail to realise they have the flu when other symptoms emerge – such as fever, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and sometime, diarrhoea.
“Some infected persons may overcome the flu and recover, but others may not. Owing to their age and pre-existing health conditions, they may develop severe illness and potentially fatal complications including inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia), heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle tissues (myositis) and multi-organ failure," he added.
Zulkifli later pointed out that concern over poor awareness of the flu led the IFL programme to mount the “Flu Prevention is an Act of Love” campaign.
Five million severe flu cases every year
According to Professor Dr Zamberi Sekawi, the chairman of MIWG, the World Health Organisation estimates that about 1 billion flu cases occur every year, of which 3 to 5 million are severe, and result in up to 650,000 deaths worldwide.
“Older persons account for 90% of all flu-related deaths. Their lungs and immune systems have weakened with age, thus making them susceptible to secondary infections, like pneumonia. Those with certain chronic health conditions are also more likely to develop a stroke, heart attack, diabetic emergencies and respiratory failure as a result of the flu. Getting vaccinated would significantly reduce their risk of flu and shape a more optimistic outlook for our senior citizens," he added.
Shifting his focus to young children, he said those who are hospitalised for influenza have a high chance of getting admitted into intensive care, experiencing respiratory failure, developing bacterial co-infection, or even dying.
"The risk is greater for those with chronic health problems, like asthma and Type 1 diabetes. Vaccination will help prevent them from catching the disease from their school mates and passing on the infection to their siblings and parents at home.
“The flu may put expectant mums at higher risk of developing pneumonia, ear and blood infections. The flu may also increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term birth and low birth weight. Thankfully, vaccination during pregnancy has been shown to be safe and protects both mother and baby throughout this sensitive period and up to several months after birth," he explained.
Flu viruses are constantly mutating and tend to circulate during the winter months in temperate countries before quickly spreading to the rest of the world, thanks to the millions of travellers who traverse the globe each day. Getting a flu vaccination every year helps ensure we are protected from the latest circulating viruses.
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