This is the third year in a row that South Africans have been at risk of contracting influenza (caused by influenza viruses) and Covid-19 (caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus) at the same time.
It is according to Dr. Noluthando Nematswerani, head of the Discovery Health Center for Clinical Excellence,
The flu and Covid-19 are different diseases, she explained.
“However, they are both spread through respiratory droplets, which the body releases when we speak, cough or sneeze. And, some people can get very sick from either or both viruses.
“That’s why many people have already jumped at the chance to get the 2022 flu shot,” Nematswerani said.
“As with Covid-19, older people and people with underlying illnesses who catch the flu can suffer from serious illness that may require hospitalization. The flu vaccine and Covid-19 can prevent this.
South Africa has also seen a spike in Covid-19 cases since mid-April caused by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
Vaccination against Covid-19 remains an important intervention to protect against serious illness and death and when it comes to influenza, this year’s vaccine provides protection against serious illness.
This year, two types of flu vaccines are available: a three-strain vaccine and a four-strain vaccine.
Nematswerani encouraged people to get the vaccine they have access to at their health facility.
Both provide protection against severe flu, and you can get the flu and Covid-19 shots at the same time.
“You can get the flu shot and the Covid-19 shot (and many other shots) at the same time, given on different arms. And, if you had the flu or Covid-19 and recovered, you can safely get the Covid-19 and flu vaccine,” she explained.
Cases of respiratory diseases on the rise
“Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and related preventative measures have impacted the spread of other respiratory pathogens, suppressing influenza activity over the past two seasons.
Also read: Why should my child get the flu shot?
“However, lab reports from January 2022 show an increase in cases of other respiratory illnesses and cases of colds (colds are different from the flu but also caused by viruses) to pre-Covid-19 levels. , this flu season could see a noticeable number of infections.
“Most people who get the flu have a mild illness with symptoms like fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and generally feel unwell. . However, for some people, the flu can be serious and lead to hospitalization and death,” Nematswerani explained.
Did you know that before the Covid-19 pandemic, South Africa lost around 11,000 people to the flu every winter? Worldwide, just over half a million people die of flu-related complications each year.
Flu shots are strongly recommended for those most at risk for severe flu, including:
• People aged 65 or over
• Children aged six months to five years
• People living with HIV
• People who are pregnant or postpartum (usually the first six weeks after giving birth) – the flu vaccine can be given safely while breastfeeding
• People with chronic health problems (such as asthma, bronchiectasis, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes). The flu vaccine is also essential for anyone who interacts with vulnerable people at increased risk of severe flu, as it reduces the risk of infection and transmission. This includes healthcare workers. Four Flu Vaccine Facts You Need to Keep in Mind
• Getting the flu shot cannot give you the flu. It simply trains your body to develop the antibodies that protect against infections and serious illnesses.
• After your vaccine, it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop
• The influenza vaccine has an excellent safety record. Common minor side effects include pain or redness and swelling at the injection site; headache; fever; or aches. These disappear within a day or two.
• We have access to new flu shots every year because flu viruses are constantly changing. Vaccines are designed to match as closely as possible the flu variants circulating during the season.
“This year, in the current context of Covid-19, our flu vaccines are essential. Flu shots are safe and they protect us and others from developing serious flu-related illnesses. They are available at our local clinics, doctors’ offices and most pharmacies.
Also Read: Flu Symptoms in Babies: When to See a Doctor