South Africans have been bracing themselves for a bad flu season following reports of the virulent H3N3 virus that has left many hospitalised in the northern hemisphere and some dead.Local health authorities are predicting that South Africa is not likely to have the deadly H3N3, but could see more cases of swine flu, which brought panic almost decade ago after an outbreak in certain parts of the world.
The Western Cape Department of Health said the H1N1 strain had been around for at least nine years. Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said: “A(H1N1) or “swine flu” has been the prominent strain detected thus far.
“This strain of flu has been part of our influenza strains circulating since 2009. As new strains of the flu emerge every year, the flu vaccine is updated to protect specifically against the viruses most likely to infect people worldwide that year.
“This is based on data collected from global influenza surveillance.”
According to the latest information from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, 98% of influenza infections recorded thus far have been the A(H1N1) strain.
Dr Sibongile Walaza, a medical epidemiologist with the institute, said while H3N2 was the predominant circulating strain in the northern hemisphere in 2017/18 and had been the predominant strain in SA last year, “we did not experience the same severity as was seen in the northern hemisphere”.
“This year the predominant strain is A(H1N1), and the level of transmission is similar to previous years. This was the strain that emerged globally in 2009 and which for the past several years has behaved like any strain of seasonal influenza – patients infected with this strain should be treated like any other seasonal influenza case.
“At this stage there is nothing to suggest the South African influenza season will be more severe. We are monitoring the season on an ongoing basis.”
The flu season in SA started in the first week of May and is expected to go on until September.
Dr Leon Naidoo, a physician and specialist pulmonologist at Netcare Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, said generally one had to “sit out a cold or flu infection”.
“Most people will just need to treat the symptoms and require a few days bed rest.
“However, if any of the symptoms, such as fever, cough, headache or congestion persist, one should consult a doctor.
“If the symptoms do not improve it may be an indication that you have developed a more serious secondary infection or complication, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.”
Homeopath and acupuncturist Dr Bruce Thomson said so far it had been a typical flu season with an significant up-tick in patient visits with intense viral symptoms.
“Of note this year are the intense fevers, swollen glands generalised body aches and headaches that are relapsing with slow recovery.Thomson said as with all conditions treated homeopathically, the immune system was “allowed full rein” with as much support as the practitioner is able to provide.
To leave the patient stronger and more adaptable to challenges posed by future strains of the virus, homoeopathic remedies used mirrored those that were more commonly indicated during the northern hemisphere flu season, he said.
Thomson offered preventative tips to tackle flu naturally:
* Get lots of fresh air, fresh unprocessed food (as organic as possible), water and most important of all, rest.
* Make sure your plate has lots of colourful food on it. Pigments in fresh foods contain a multitude of phytochemicals that provide vitamins, sterols, sterolins and other micronutrients we need from day to day.
* Before you get sick, regular exercise, managing stress and simply washing your hands regularly at this time of year have all been shown to be of benefit. – Additional reporting by Weekend Argus Reporter