The Department of Health reported a total of 151,371 cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) between October 9 and 13, representing a 45 percent increase in cases compared to the same period last year.
In a statement, the DOH said the higher number of ILI cases “is observed in most diseases under surveillance, which could be attributed to the efforts to strengthen surveillance for other diseases as we shift our focus from COVID-19.”
The flu and COVID-19 have many similar symptoms, affecting the nose, throat, and/or lungs, but they are caused by different viruses. The latter spreads more easily and can cause more severe illness in some people, and the best course of action would be to undergo specific testing to confirm a diagnosis.
ILI causes fever above 38C and lasts around 10 days. Other symptoms include sore throat, cold, dry cough, headache, chills, body aches, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is transmitted via droplets of infected individuals and the touching of contaminated surfaces then one’s mouth, nose, and/or eyes. Individuals with ILI are most likely to spread it to others in the first three to four days, even without symptoms.
ILI is becoming common as December approaches, especially with the increase in mobility and travel, less people wearing face masks, and the lack of hygienic measures. According to Dr. Mark Pasayan, a medical specialist at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the lower vaccination coverage for flu could’ve led to increased cases, as the focus has been on COVID-19. The rise in ILI cases can also be attributed to waning immunity against flu.
Given our extensive experience with COVID, the DOH recommended methods of avoiding ILI still apply, such as getting vaccinated; avoiding crowded places; wearing face masks, especially indoors; covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing; ensuring proper ventilation; and the frequent sanitation of hands.
These measures will be necessary as increased ILI cases are expected to last until January 2024, according to Philippine College of Physicians President Rontgene Solante.
If protecting ourselves and our families from ILI is going to be the same drill as COVID, we should have no problems because we’ve already practiced it for almost three years. However, as many of us are already trying too hard to forget the pandemic years, it may be necessary to remind people once more of the measures and precautions that we will need to take to prevent the spread of such diseases.
Hopefully we will still learn to adapt and do what is needed so we can continue to live normal lives, despite the continued presence of ILI and COVID, which are still infectious and can still make life miserable for those who get infected.*