RANGOON — Doctors in Rangoon are concerned about an apparently unexplained increase in recurrent influenza infections this rainy season.
Seasonal flu is widespread in the city during the transitions between seasons, but those who are infected develop some immunity, reducing the chance of re-infection in the same year.
This rainy season, however, doctors say that more patients than usual are returning with flu—although with slightly different symptoms—a second time or more.
“I have patients who are going through their fourth time getting sick from flu this year,” said Dr. Sein Sein, who runs a clinic in Hledan Township.
A primary care doctor for more than 25 years, she said she has not experienced this kind of recurrent flu before.
Patients infected with the recurrent flu show different symptoms from those getting sick for the first time in the season. A person infected with the common seasonal flu will experience sneezing, coughing, headaches and muscle pain.
“The people who are sick for the second, third or fourth time may still have slight headaches, but mostly, their main complaint is a severe sore throat,” Dr. Sein Sein said.
Myo Myo Khine, a 28-year-old clothing shop salesperson, who has had flu twice this year said, “I can come to work now, but I cannot eat lunch easily because my throat hurts a lot.
“So I only eat porridge these days. I also haven’t been able to fall asleep at night because of my sore throat.”
The reason behind the sudden emergence of the recurrent influenza is unknown.
Dr. Thant Syn, a primary care physician in Rangoon, suggested two possible reasons: “It might be because the immunity is only partially developed by the body as a natural defense to invading organisms. So people who have contracted flu are still liable to re-infection.
“Another possible cause, though less likely, might be that the people are infected again by different strains of influenza. Because the immunity imparted by the body’s defense mechanism is specific to each strain of influenza, a person can get infected again if his body is invaded by a different strain of flu.”
Those with recurrent flu are advised to rest well, avoid crowded places and eat bland food.
Dr. Thant Syn said that a less orthodox remedy employing vinegar also appeared to work. “Gurgling with vinegar and drinking boiled ginger water have produced visible improvements in my patients,” Dr. Thant Syn said.