Already in autumn doctors forecast winter epidemics of flu in Ukraine, which would bring thousands of sick leaves, quarantines in schools and hard work for doctors. Soon TV commercials will advertise miraculous cures, and people will run to pharmacies to buy cough syrups. Winter flu epidemic has become a traditional addition to New Year holidays like mandarins and fireworks. Doctors all over the world rack their brains to invent a universal remedy against flu, but virus infections mutate so fast that having invented a vaccine against one strain scientists immediately start working on the next one. 

Flu epidemic in Ukraine - 2013

Ukraine faces two waves of flu epidemic - the first one in the end of October - beginning of November, and the second one in February 2013. According to the specialist, the epidemic is linked to unstable weather conditions - humidity and wet snow, which decrease activity of immune system. Moreover, this time Ukrainians will face new strains of flu virus.

According to the Healthcare Ministry, this year new virus strains of A and B types are expected: А/California/7/2009 (N1H1), А/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2), В/Wisconsin/1/2010. The last two strains circulated in Ukraine six-seven years ago, thus people no longer have immune resistance to them.

At the same time doctors are optimistic and do not expect mass epidemic of flu. "This year, the flu epidemic may bypass Ukraine. Now, 69% of patients with influenza and ARVI are children. The highest rate of incidence among all regions is registered in Kyiv," Chief physician of the Kyiv City Health Center Otto Stoika said.

However, Sanitary-Epidemiological Service of Ukraine is getting ready for intense flu epidemic. "Ukraine may have an intense epidemic process. It will depend on the weather, the temperature in schools, timely prevention and a number of vaccinated people," head of the state health surveillance of the Sanitary-Epidemiological Service Vasyl Lyashko said.
Doctors also agree that the only effective preventive measure against flu is vaccine. However, Ukrainians do not hurry to be vaccinated, either not believing in its effectiveness or not wanting to spend their money. "None of vaccines give 100% guarantee you won't get sick with flu, but at least it guarantees you won't have complications. However, you may vaccinated against three strains of flu, but there may be a forth type which will put you to bed. I am not sure myself whether to take the vaccine or not," pediatric physician Anna Horbal says.
Anyway, it's worth to try to prevent the disease than to cure it, as treatment process is rather expensive, thus the preventive measure will be cheaper. The vaccine and obligatory doctor consultation will cost you about 200 hryvnias.

Who needs vaccination?

All three strains of flu have been included into season vaccines for 2012-1013. Healthcare Ministry recommends that people included into a risk group (nearly 1 million 200 thousand people) should be vaccinated.
Doctor points out that the flu vaccine made 16-20 days before the beginning of the announced epidemic is the most effective. The risk group includes people working in collectives, like medical workers, social workers, militaries, police officers, etc; people working in the service delivery sphere; children - wards of state, pregnant women and older people.

This year Ukraine has four types of vaccines of the Western European production, namely VAXIGRIP, Intanza, Fluarix and Influvak, which meet all necessary quality standards.
What? Where? How much?

Every district hospital is supposed to provide vaccines. But as ForUm correspondent found out, not all state hospitals in Kyiv have the vaccines. Sometimes, the administration office of a hospital admits right away that the hospital does not have vaccines but private clinics do have. You will have to pay for this procedure anyway, be it private or state medical institution. Thus, we went to a private clinic and paid 200 hryvnias for the vaccine itself and the consultation of a doctor.  
The consultation is obligatory, as without doctor's written recommendation a nurse has not right to vaccinate you. The physician did not hold standard examination, but asked questions, in particular about allergies. People who have the protein allergy cannot be vaccinated, as the vaccine is based on proteins. The doctor also checked the body temperature. If you are sick with something and your body temperature is more than 36.6, the vaccination is not recommended. So, if you are doing fine, get ready for the shot.  


After the examination, the doctor chooses the vaccine. ForUm correspondent was recommended to take Influvak, based on toxin. According to the doctor, with this vaccine the inoculation process should go easier and smoothly for the organism, though there is no big difference among all four types of vaccine, the doctor admits. After the doctor wrote the permission, the nurse took out a filled syringe with the vaccine from the fridge and ForUm correspondent got the shot. 

The doctor also warned us that within several days the place of injection might hurt. Moreover, every patient must sign an agreement assuring that he will report to the doctor any possible complications, like long-lasting pain or running temperature. However, the doctor told us none of his patients has ever had complications. Even pregnant women are recommended to take vaccines. Immune resistance is developed in two weeks and lasts for eight months.

Healthcare Ministry warns that if you observe flu symptoms, it is better to stay home in order to prevent complications and not to infect other people.

Flu symptoms include fever or feeling feverish, a cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headaches and/or body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children). With any of these symptoms, it is better to call doctor and follow his symptomatic treatment. If the condition of the sick gets worse, do not delay hospitalization.

It is important to know that flu cannot be cured with:

- antibiotics - they do not fight flu viruses, as they are aimed for bacterial infections, and the misuse can complicate treatments of other diseases in the future;
- homeopathic medicine - there are no scientific proofs that these medicines can fight flu virus, that's why they are not recommended for treatment of any dangerous infections, including flu;
- immunostimulant or immunomodulator -  there are no scientific proofs that these medicines are effective against flu virus;
- natural remedies - herb tea and potions do not fight flu virus, thus treating flu with natural remedies only is ineffective and dangerous.

Tetyana Hryhorieva, photos by Viktor Kovalchuk


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