Muscat – As many as 177 cases of seasonal influenza and two deaths resulting from it have been recorded in the sultanate in 2020/2021, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH).
Outbreaks of seasonal influenza, commonly known as flu, caused by influenza viruses resulting in acute respiratory infection are witnessed in all parts of the world.
Seasonal influenza claimed 29 lives in Oman between July 2018 and June 2019. According to MoH, there were 1,248 laboratory confirmed cases during this period.
The number of cases registered in the 2019-2020 season, however, decreased. This was due to precautionary measures adopted worldwide to counter the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, including partial lockdowns and border shutdowns, school lessons and office work moving online, suspension of travel, and face masks being made mandatory in public places.
According to Dr Amal bin Saif al Maani, senior consultant in pediatric infectious diseases, and infection prevention and control, viruses exist in nature and will never stop existing. “Seasonal influenza causes winter diseases annually. With the emergence of COVID-19, we no longer registered seasonal influenza cases due to adherence to preventive measures. But this year, there is a sense of reassurance – which is unfounded – as a result of the decrease in number of COVID-19 cases. A greater number of seasonal influenza cases have been registered this year.”
Dr Amal said that the health measures enforced as a result of the pandemic – including hand hygiene, avoiding shaking hands and direct contact with eyes, nose and mouth – must continue to be observed, especially during flu season. “Everyone is requested to take vaccines against viruses,” she added.
MoH recommends seasonal vaccines for the most vulnerable groups, such as healthcare workers, pregnant women, the elderly (65 years and older), and patients with chronic conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, kidney and liver disorders, and diabetes.
MoH informed that it continues to conduct necessary surveillance and implement preventive measures throughout the year, besides updating the concerned authorities and specialists on the situation.