Govt investigates surge in flu-like illnesses Health and Child Care Secretary Dr Aspect Maunganidze said the ministry was still investigating the rise in the cases.

Health Reporter

THE Government is investigating a surge in flu-like illnesses across the country to determine if the symptoms are not associated with a new virus.

This comes as the Ministry of Health and Child Care last week reported an increase in influenza cases to more than 87 000 since the beginning of January this year.

Although such trends are synonymous with low temperatures recorded as the winter season approaches, Health and Child Care Secretary Dr Aspect Maunganidze said the ministry was still investigating the rise in the cases.

“We have indeed noticed through our surveillance, in terms of diseases in the country, that there has been an increase in flu-like illnesses. We have not confirmed that it’s a totally new virus yet. 

“This is expected in the season that we are going (into), but we have also noticed in the region, in particular Botswana, where they have also recorded a high incidence of influenza-like illnesses,” he said.

Of the 3 634 suspected influenza cases reported last week, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West provinces reported the highest number. No deaths from the illnesses were reported.

Influenza is an acute viral respiratory disease that is often characterised by fever, headache, sore throat and cough. The viruses can spread rapidly from person to person, causing seasonal outbreaks that can result in significant morbidity.

Dr Maunganidze said everyone needed to be vigilant and prevent contracting flu-like illnesses.

“People need to practise strong hygiene, especially hand hygiene. Avoid touching your face, your nostrils, because the virus is found even on surfaces and in the air from droplets that people will be coughing or sneezing. So once you touch them and you also touch your fa0ce, you really increase the chances of getting the flu. 

“In addition, you need to wash your hands where you can. You can wear your mask, especially if you have started to have flu-like symptoms and you want to avoid passing it on to others,” he said.

He encouraged the public to continue undertaking appropriate precautionary measures to safeguard themselves and their families, including adhering to healthy lifestyles and eating vitamin C-rich foods to avoid falling ill.

Dr Maunganidze also warned against self-medicating and unnecessarily taking antibiotics, unless prescribed by a health professional.

“There is generally no need to be taking antibiotics, unless prescribed by the doctor. So we need to avoid abuse of these antibiotics as this also increases the chances of antimicrobial resistance. In general, we need to keep ourselves alert and if symptoms of flu are not settling or they are worsening after 10 to 14 days, with additional chest symptoms and coughing of blood and other symptoms, then you need to make sure you are checked by a doctor,” he added.

The increase in flu-like illnesses has also been reported in other countries in the region.

Botswana recently issued a warning on the rise of influenza-like symptoms, with the country’s Permanent Secretary for Health, Dr Christopher Nyariga, warning citizens to be vigilant.

At the weekend, the Health Ministry, however, said the cases had subsided.

“While no fatalities or hospitalisations have been reported thus far, the ministry is actively investigating potential causes, to inform its response strategies. These influenza-like illnesses typically manifest with various symptoms like a runny nose (often with clear mucus), frontal headaches, intermittent fevers, dry cough, sore throat and general bodily weakness. These symptoms may persist for several days before subsiding completely. In light of this development, the Ministry of Health urges the public to continue undertaking appropriate precautionary measures to safeguard themselves and their families,” said Dr Nyariga.

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