SINGAPORE- Figures released by the Ministry of Health showed that the number of people treated at polyclinics for respiratory infections went up from 13,000 a week in September to 14,000 a week in December.
Raffles Hospital infectious diseases specialist Dr Leong Hoe Nam told The Straits Times that Singapore is especially susceptible to seasonal flu during the flu seasons between December and February, as well as between May and July.
Other reasons for Singaporeans being flu-prone include being well-travelled and having a high population density within the country's borders.
Having many tourists is also a factor as travellers can bring flu from the different hemispheres into the country.
The three strains in circulation now include H1N1, Influenza B and H3N2.
All three strains cause fever, runny nose, muscle aches, sore throat, headaches and fatigue. However, Influenza B is the dominant strain as it is likely to have mutated as the different strains compete against one another, doctors say.
There is also a rare but mild Type C virus.
Differences between flu and common cold
A medical expert told The Straits Times that many people mistake the flu for the common cold, and hence disregard vaccinations.
However, the flu hits the body much harder. A fever caused by the flu lasts three to four days.
The victim also suffers from muscle aches and tiredness and is also usually sick for a week. However, one can recover from a cold in two days.
Influenza is one of the oldest infectious diseases around. It is spread mainly via air droplets or close contact with an infected person.
The virus can also remain on surfaces for a period of time. Anyone who has contact with the surface may also get sick.
The flu virus remains dangerous as it is constantly evolving to beat the competition. The competition leads to different strains dominating at different times of the year.
Vaccinations in Singapore
Doctors said the best way to prevent contracting flu is through vaccinations.
However, vaccine take-up rates in Singapore are 'pathetic' as less than 15 per cent of the population is vaccinated.
The vaccine offers about 70 per cent protection against all three current strains of flu for about a year.
However, the vaccine is unsuitable for those who are allergic to eggs. Most neighbourhood clinics offer the jab at a cost of $20 to $30.