Citizens receive the free flu vaccine from the health department at Rose Park on May 24, 2023 in Lenasia, South Africa. Flu vaccines are available for free at various public healthcare facilities across the country, and are usually provided during the winter months, which is typically from May to September.
(Photo by Gallo Images/Papi Morake)
- Flu cases are on the rise in South Africa, says the national Department of Health.
- The department said it had been notified by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of the increasing circulation of the flu virus.
- KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and North West have all seen an increase in cases.
The national Department of Health is concerned about the rise of flu cases across the country since the beginning of May.
The department was notified by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of the increasing circulation of influenza around the country.
In a statement issued by the health department on Saturday, it said cases had been steadily increasing since week 15 (starting 10 April), and the NICD received reports of influenza clusters in schools and workplaces.
Influenza or the flu, is an acute illness caused by an infection of the respiratory tract by the influenza virus.
The increase in case numbers has been identified in six provinces, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and North West, where surveillance is conducted.
“Two types of influenza viruses commonly infect humans, namely A and B. The flu viruses are typically in circulation before the winter season in South Africa,” the statement said.
The virus spreads from person to person through inhalation of infected respiratory droplets as people are sneezing, coughing or talking.
“A person can also be infected by touching contaminated objects or surfaces that have the flu virus on them and then touching their mouth, eyes or nose,” the Department added.
People who are infected with flu can prevent further spread by covering their mouth when coughing with a tissue or coughing into the elbow; wearing a mask, washing their hands frequently with soap and water or cleaning their hands using an alcohol-based sanitiser, or staying at home and trying to keep a distance from others.
“Although [most] people with influenza will present with mild illness, influenza may cause severe illness, which may require hospitalisation or cause death, especially in individuals at risk of getting severe influenza illness or complications,” said the department.
People at increased risk of severe health complications of the flu include pregnant women, people living with conditions like HIV/Aids and other chronic illnesses or conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, tuberculosis, heart disease, renal disease and obesity.
Elderly people (65 years and older) and children younger than two years old are also at increased risk.
“These groups should be encouraged to seek medical help early. The most common symptoms include fever, muscle pains and body aches, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, feeling tired or unwell and headache,” said the department.
According to the department, these may develop one to four days after infection and last for two to seven days.
For the majority of people, the symptoms commonly resolve without treatment.
“The influenza vaccine remains the primary means for preventing seasonal influenza infection, and should [ideally] be administered before the influenza season (March to April).”
“However, even if the season has already started, it is never too late to get vaccinated, especially individuals who are at high risk of [developing] severe influenza illness or complications,” added the department.