GEORGE TOWN: While the Covid-19 situation in the country is slowly improving, health experts have advised the people to brace for the seasonal flu by taking precautions and consuming more fluids.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) family medicine specialist Dr Mastura Mohd Sopian said that more patients were seeking treatment for influenza-related illnesses, but none of their symptoms was associated with other illnesses such as headache, myalgia, nausea and vomiting or eye pain.

“I would say it is a normal trend now, as kids and adults have the common flu symptoms when they come to the clinic to seek treatment.

“But we remind them that if their symptoms persist, they must come back and may need referral to hospital or admission,” she said when contacted.

Dr Mastura added that she expects cases to increase with the current changes in the weather.

“People should drink more water, practise high hygiene standards and strictly adhere to Covid-19 standard operating procedures.

“Sometimes people forget that Covid-19 still exists, so it is important to be always mindful of our surroundings,” she said, adding that patients who have flu-like symptoms would also be advised to do a Covid-19 self-test at home.

Penang Gleneagles Hospital medical officer Dr Benjamin Chow said flu is seasonal and is probably brought about due to the weather conditions and travelling patterns.

“There have been fewer flu cases of late and this was probably due to the precautions taken and hygiene standards practised by the public to prevent Covid-19,” he said.

He added that the common misconception is that the flu only affects people in countries that have winter.

“In Malaysia, flu can occur all year round,” he said.

He added that without routine screening for influenza in Malaysia, there is no data on how widespread it is or how many lives it has claimed.

“As influenza mutates quickly, the annual vaccine is necessary to protect those at high risk of complications. So, prevention is still the best way to protect us from the flu,” he said.

Dr Chow said that among the precautions the public can take during flu season is to practise high standards of hygiene, wear face masks and take flu vaccines.

USM virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said the current seasonal flu is not a new virus that people should be alarmed about.

“Do a Covid-19 self-test and if you test negative, then it is most likely the seasonal flu,” she said.

She said the flu is caused by the influenza virus and most people get the flu when they breathe in droplets from the coughs or sneezes of someone who has the flu.

She said anyone can catch the flu if they touch something with the virus on it, and proceed to touch their mouth, nose or eyes.

She said it typically occurs year-round in Malaysia and with the reopening of borders and loosening of restrictions, there is more movement and travelling, resulting in the increase in cases.

“There have also been large gatherings such as weddings and open houses, which may have contributed to the increase in cases as there is more contact with people.

“As countries abroad tend to report a higher number of cases in the colder seasons, there are some who believe that colder weather increases the transmission but it actually has less to do with the weather.

“There are also others who believe that durians, a favourite of Malaysians, may cause an increase in flu cases.

“According to alternative medicine beliefs, durian has ‘warming’ properties and overindulgence can cause sore throat. But the overall symptoms from heatiness would be different from a flu,” she added.

Kumitaa urged the public to remain vigilant of the habits practised during the pandemic – wearing a face mask, sanitising hands, disinfecting surfaces often and being careful around symptomatic people.

She added that maintaining hygiene will go a long way in protecting against the flu and Covid-19.