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Dhaka Tribune

Experts: April-September marks flu season in Bangladesh

  • Decision taken after reviewing year-long influenza surveillance data
  • Recommendation made to administer vaccine between February and March
Update : 17 Apr 2024, 08:15 PM

Health experts have identified April to September as the flu virus season in Bangladesh. 

Researchers from the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and icddr,b came up with the decision after reviewing year-long influenza surveillance data.

This information was presented at the seminar titled “Influenza Surveillance in Bangladesh” at the IEDCR Auditorium in Mohakhali on Wednesday.

In the seminar, the results obtained from the influenza surveillance conducted in various hospitals across the country since 2007 were presented.

This surveillance is being conducted in Bangladesh with the technical assistance of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The surveillance is currently running in 19 hospitals across the country.  The surveillance aims to understand the transmission and seasonal variation of influenza virus in Bangladesh, as well as to identify different types of influenza virus.

Analysis of surveillance data shows that the incidence of influenza infection increases in Bangladesh from April to September. 

Besides, the researchers have identified this period as the flu season.

They recommend getting the influenza virus vaccine or flu-shot between February and March every year in Bangladesh to ensure maximum protection against the influenza virus.

In addition, they suggest that healthcare providers, the elderly, and patients with chronic diseases should be prioritized for influenza vaccination.

Associate scientist of icddr,b Dr Fahmida Chowdhury gives insight into the pattern of flu transmission worldwide. 

She said: "Every year in the world, 290,000 to 650,000 people die of influenza virus."

In addition, she highlighted the seasonal variation of influenza in different regions of the world and gave an idea on the correct time of flu vaccination.

She said that different developed and developing countries of the world conduct flu vaccine programs before their flu season.

Director of IEDCR and National Influenza Centre Professor DrTahmina Shirin presented the results obtained from influenza surveillance in Bangladesh.

Influenza was found in about 11% of the more than 115,000 patients who came to the hospital for treatment with complaints of short-term fever and cough. 

In addition, about one in every 100 hospitalized influenza-positive patients die in hospital. However, the death rate is three times higher than normal in people over 60 years of age and patients with chronic diseases, said IEDCR director. 

Professor Dr Tahmina Shirin said: "Analyzing the data, it has been found that flu is detected in Bangladesh throughout the year. However, flu detection rates increase from April to September each year, with peak incidence occurring from June to July. For this reason, April to September has been identified as influenza season in Bangladesh.”

She stressed the importance of protecting at-risk populations with influenza vaccination before the start of the season and caution in antibiotic use during influenza season.

Speaking as the chief guest at the seminar, Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), stressed the possibility of a pandemic of influenza and prevention of unnecessary use of antibiotics.

She said that if symptoms like fever, cold, cough appear during the “ongoing flu” season, then one must consult a doctor before taking antibiotics, so that resistance to the medicine cannot be created. 

“Besides, if we follow the rules of coughing, hand washing and wearing masks, throughout the year, we can prevent not only influenza or respiratory diseases, but also other infectious diseases.”

Dr Tahmid Ahmed, executive director of icddr,b highlighted the importance of influenza surveillance in Bangladesh in his speech as a special guest in global public health policy making. 

He said: "In 2008 to 2010, the scientist of icddr,b, Dr K Zaman researched that giving the influenza vaccine to the mother during pregnancy reduces the risk of the disease in the newborn as well as the mother by 63%. Based on the results of this study, the WHO recommends giving flu vaccines to mothers during pregnancy.”

Dr ASM Alamgir, infectious hazard management officer of WHO, Dr Gretchen Cowman, Epidemiologist of US-CDC, Prof Dr Mahmudur Rahman, representative of Global Health Development (GHD) and Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network, attended the seminar as special guests. 

Besides, officials of DGHS, doctors, representatives of various pharmaceutical companies and media persons participated in the seminar.

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