How to stay safe from triple threat of Covid-19, flu and RSV this winter

Dr Zaineb Sabri of Medcare Hospital urges the public to follow safety precautions and take the flu vaccine

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UAE residents are being urged to take every precaution to protect themselves against the triple threat of Covid-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) this winter.

News reports of a “tridemic” of Covid-19, influenza and RSV overwhelming parts of the US and Canada have surfaced in recent weeks causing concern among the more vulnerable.

One of the UAE’s leading medical experts said people who do not take precautions could be at risk of contracting one, or even all three, of the viruses.

Here, Dr Zaineb Sabri, a specialist in internal medicine with Medcare Hospital Sharjah, tells The National about how people can keep themselves safe over the winter.

Can someone catch all three viruses at the same time?

In the early era of Covid-19, there were cases when people would get Covid and the flu, that was because they were taking it lightly and there was not much awareness.

Even before the pandemic people were at risk from the flu or RSV because droplets would spread through the air in coughs and sneezes.

It is very unlikely that someone would get all three at the same time but it could happen, so people need to take precautions to keep themselves safe.

Is a return to social distancing likely?

No, I don’t think we’ll see anything like this but we should always be cautious. We saw during the pandemic that these kinds of viruses are always changing.

I am hopeful that we won’t need to go back to that stage.

Dr Zainab Sabri says people should wear masks if they are unwell and unable to isolate themselves, especially in the workplace. Photo: Zainab Sabri

Which people are most at risk?

Everyone from nursery school children to adults could be exposed, but people suffering from chronic conditions are more vulnerable.

People with health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease or a compromised immune system are more liable to get severe diseases.

What can they do to protect themselves?

It is important that anybody who is in that bracket receives the flu vaccine to ensure they have that extra protection.

It is a myth that you will not get the flu if you get the flu vaccine, but you will definitely have a less severe case of it.

People should also stay away from others if they have the flu. That was even the case before the pandemic.

You should avoid going near anyone who has a respiratory sickness as well.

People should wear masks if they are unwell and unable to isolate themselves, especially in the workplace.

It is also important to keep an area well ventilated and avoid using recycled air, like with air conditioning, if you can.

The weather is nice enough now to open a window and not need to use air conditioning. This means you will not be sharing the same recycled air.

Can Christmas and school holiday travel increase risk of infection?

Yes, that is why I recommend that everyone takes the flu vaccine. It is available to everyone over the age of six months.

People need to keep themselves well hydrated as well.

Updated: December 14, 2022, 7:56 AM