Doha, Qatar: ​The Ministry of Public Health, in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Primary Health Care Corporation, (PHCC) has launched a public awareness campaign aimed at empowering the community in protecting themselves from viral respiratory infections including seasonal influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19.

Head of Infectious Diseases at HMC, Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, explained that it is very common for people to get sick from viral respiratory infections at this time of year. “As the temperatures drop and the winter respiratory viruses circulate more widely in the community, it is important that people take action to reduce their risk of getting sick from these respiratory viruses.”

“While anyone can get catch flu, RSV or COVID-19, certain population groups are at increased risk of developing more severe symptoms. This includes people over 50 years of age, individuals with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and young children, particularly those below 5 years of age,” explained Dr. Al Khal.

Dr. Al Khal said the symptoms of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 can be similar and include fever, cough, sore throat, nasal discharge, body aches, headaches and sometimes shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should stay at home to reduce the risk of passing the infection onto other people. If the symptoms are moderate or severe, individuals should seek medical support by visiting a primary health center for diagnosis and treatment. There are effective treatments for influenza and COVID-19 if given early in the course of infection. This is particularly important for people at increased risk for severe infection because of age or chronic conditions. 

Director of Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control at MoPH, Dr. Hamad Al Romaihi, said there are simple steps people can take to protect themselves from these common respiratory infections. “Flu, RSV, and COVID-19 all spread in similar ways, so it is important that people adhere to basic infection prevention and control measures to protect themselves and others. This includes reducing contact with people who show symptoms such as coughing or sneezing; keeping your hands clean with regular hand washing; coughing or sneezing into your elbow, or if you are using a tissue, making sure you properly dispose of used tissues immediately after use; and getting vaccinated annually against flu and COVID-19. School children with symptoms of respiratory infections should avoid going to school while they have active symptoms to protect their classmates from the infection.” 

Dr. Al Romaihi explained the vaccines for flu and COVID-19 are safe, effective and supported by extensive research studies and he encouraged individuals at high risk of more severe symptoms to get vaccinated.

Manager of Health Protection, Preventive Health Directorate at PHCC, Dr. Khalid Hamid Elawad, said the seasonal influenza vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine are both provided to all residents of Qatar free of charge. “Influenza vaccines are available at more than 90 healthcare facilities across Qatar, including 31 PHCC health centers, outpatient clinics at HMC hospitals, and more than 45 semi-governmental and private hospitals and clinics, while COVID-19 vaccines are available at all 31 PHCC health centers.”

“Getting vaccinated is not an individual decision; rather, it is an expression of our social responsibility towards our loved ones and all members of society. We can protect people we love and contribute to building a healthy and safe society for everyone by solidarity and getting vaccinated,” added Dr. Elawad. 

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