King Khalid University Medical School Professor, Dr. Safer Al-Shahrani, issued a statement regarding influenza prevention. Flu season is now upon us, and we all want to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the disease. Prevention is especially important for vulnerable populations such as the aged, infants, and those who have compromised immune systems. Prof. Al-Shahrani noted that the flu viruses - unlike common colds - spread primarily through the air. He further noted that the flu virus can be spread through surface contact as well. We are all subject to contact with flu viruses at home, at work, and at social events.
The good doctor stated unequivocally that the best way to prevent the disease is the flu vaccination. In fact, he described the prophylactic flu vaccination as one of the most significant discoveries in the field of medicine, which has dramatically reduced disease, disability, death, and suffering worldwide. The vaccination includes a large number of proteins from dead viruses that cause influenza. Prof. Al-Shahrani related that according to last year's reports, vaccinations defeated 90% of the viruses causing the flu. It is worth noting that there are a wide variety of influenza viruses and their effects on individuals vary greatly. Al-Shahrani proudly added that flu vaccinations are free at all MOH hospitals and primary health care centers in the Kingdom. While this excellent service is provided at no cost, there are still those who are hesitant to be vaccinated. Many people fear the vaccine and/or are more inclined towards home remedies. As the vaccine is effective on 90% of known flu strains, the prophylactic vaccine is still the best method of prevention. 'Many people fear the vaccination because the viruses injected are the same ones that cause the illness. However, the critical difference is that the viruses contained in the vaccine are dead rather than alive', said Prof. Al-Shahrani. These non-living viruses boost the immune system without actually causing the disease. He also dispelled many common myths. One is that antibiotics will prevent colds and flu. This is simply not true, as antibiotics are a treatment rather than preventative medicine. Another common myth is that the side effects of the vaccine are significant and often fatal. It is true that the vaccine does have some side effects. But in the vast majority of cases, the side effects are mild and short-lived. The benefits of the vaccine substantially outweigh the risks in all but extreme individual cases.
Influenza pandemics have been recorded since ancient times. In days of old, Muslim scientists described it as 'The Nose of a Goat'. As Arab scientific progress spread to the western world, this knowledge was translated into other languages such as Latin. Influenza remains a significant problem in almost every part of the world to this day – as it was in ancient times. Therefore, prevention is paramount.
Prof. Al-Shahrani explained that Influenza viruses are able to mutate. As a result, humans may have no natural immunity to new strains of the viruses. The medical scientific community is engaged in a constant battle to discover rapidly mutating forms of the flu virus and adjust prophylactic medications accordingly. By preventing the spread of the viruses, we can all do our part in controlling outbreaks and needless human suffering.