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DOH: Never underestimate the seemingly mild flu

/ 08:35 PM February 22, 2013

FLU could hit quickly and unexpectedly.

People tend to think of common diseases such as flu in nonthreatening terms, more often believing that when they catch  a fever—which often comes with sore throat and cough—they’ll be all right in just a few days.

But diseases, especially flu, should be taken seriously.

“It can lead to hospitalization and death, especially in young children, pregnant women, elderly individuals and those with certain chronic illnesses in the heart, kidney or lungs,” said Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, program manager of the Department of Health’s Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Disease Program.


While flu season—a period wherein cases of infection spike dramatically—is expected to happen between July and December, it never hurts to be prepared this early.

No certainty

Indeed, one cannot with any degree of certainty predict the severity of the coming flu season or even predict the changes in flu viruses.

Case in point: The flu season in the United States, which occurs every January, arrived a month earlier than usual and by February, some 59 deaths in children were reported (the United States does not keep a running tally of flu-related deaths in adults) while 8,293 elderly individuals were hospitalized.

Lee Suy said there’s a possibility that the flu season may also arrive early in the Philippines considering the unpredictable weather and other factors. “The best way to protect yourself and your family from flu is to get vaccinated, while those at high risk for complications from flu should visit their doctor promptly if they experience flu symptoms including fever, cough, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue,” he reminded the public.

“The flu vaccine will prevent one from getting sick, including the chance of contracting any of the other significant complications, or at least help reduce the severity of the illness,” Lee Suy said.

Fatal complications

Flu can produce complications that could result in death, including pneumonia, bacterial infection, acute respiratory failure and encephalitis, even in otherwise healthy individuals (for more information about flu and flu vaccination, visit


This is the reason doctors strongly encourage the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Lee Suy explained that it is never too late to get vaccinated, urging the public who have not had a flu shot to get one (in hospitals and private clinics), especially those who are around young children or older people, or those who are in the most vulnerable categories.

Indeed, the best approach to the flu is not to share it: Get vaccinated or stay home if you already got it.

The reason one has to get a shot each year is the fact that the flu vaccine is reformulated almost every year to match the three strains of the flu virus that are circulating and which are expected to cause widespread infection and sickness.

While this method may seem like playing catchup with the virus, health experts admit that this system works and has been proven effective year after year.

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