MANILA -- The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday urged the public to take extra precaution to avoid contracting and spreading the flu virus during the peak months of the flu season.

“Binabantayan natin kung ano iyong strain at talagang by middle of the year nagbabakuna na tayo. Sa Pilipinas ang peak lang talaga ng flu-like illnesses itong panahon na malamig (We're looking at the strain and by the middle of the year we conduct vaccinations. In the Philippines the peak of flu-like illnesses is this cold weather),” Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a statement.

The flu season starts in October, peaking from January to February when temperature drops, Domingo said.

Based on DOH records, flu cases in the country have declined in 2018 as compared to the same period in 2017. From Jan. 1 to Dec. 15, 2018, some 153,659 cases of influenza-like illnesses were reported, which is 17 percent lower than the 127,632 cases during the same period in 2017.

The DOH differentiated flu from common cough and cold. It said flu is accompanied by high fever and muscle pains, which last for days.

“Ang nakakatakot lang kasi na gusto nating ma-prevent iyong mga flu na nagkakaroon ng complication. Kasi maaari siyang mauwi sa pneumonia at of course maaaring in the end makamatay (What we're wary about is to prevent flu with complications. Because it could lead to pneumonia and of course could lead to death in the end),” Domingo said.

The flu's different strains are contagious once they come in contact with the body through coughs from another person, holding contaminated objects or touching the mouth or nose.

The public is advised to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of the flu virus as it can be fatal to the human body. If not immediately addressed by a health professional, it could cause severe effects or complications.

The DOH advised the public to keep the immune system strong by:
     * Taking more water and fluids like orange juice and six to eight glasses of water every day.
     * Sleeping at least six to eight hours a day
     * Making sure to exercise and eat fruits and vegetables
     * Making it a habit to wear face mask especially when in crowded places or when travelling to avoid contracting flu virus

The DOH also advised parents to ensure their children's full protection against flu by getting a complete set of vaccination. Senior citizens can get free flu shots in barangay health centers and DOH-accredited hospitals. (PNA)