The best time to get the seasonal flu vaccine is before the start of the  winter season, according to a Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) expert, who has stressed that everyone over six years needs to protect themselves against influenza this year. “Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death,” said Dr Muna al-Maslamani, medical director of the Communicable Disease Centre
While the flu can affect all, there are some groups who are more at risk than others. This includes: People over 50; people with chronic conditions regardless of their age; children aged between six months and five years; pregnant women and healthcare workers and teachers. “We’re all susceptible to the flu.  People who are very young, very old or who have chronic medical conditions are at risk for more complications and more severe flu,” Dr al-Maslamani said. “So, while it’s important for all of us to get vaccinated, it’s essential for young children, older people, and people who have illnesses to get vaccinated.
“It is also critical for healthcare workers and teachers to get the flu vaccine due to their close interaction with vulnerable patients and children.”
Dr al-Maslamani said the best way to prevent flu is by getting the flu vaccine every year, as early as possible.
“The annual flu vaccine has  reduced flu-related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalisation or even death,” she said. “Everyday preventive actions such as staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent hand washing can help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses, like flu.”
Free seasonal influenza vaccines are available at all primary health centres, HMC outpatient clinics and at more than 45 private and semi-private clinics and hospitals across Qatar. For more information about the flu vaccine and where to get to, visit www.fighttheflu.qa