This undated electron microscope image made available by the US National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes Covid-19. Picture: AP
This undated electron microscope image made available by the US National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes Covid-19. Picture: AP

Flu symptoms may overlap with covid-19 symptoms. Get your flu vaccine, says doctor

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Apr 11, 2020

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As concerns grow about the new coronavirus, stats from the department of health on flu cases in South Africa show as many as 11 000 people die from the virus every year.

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that worldwide, annual flu epidemics result in as many as five million cases of severe illness, and about 290 000 to 650 000 deaths. 

Flu kills between 6 000 to 11 000 South Africans every year, according to the National Department of Health. About 50 percent of those deaths are among the elderly, and about 30 percent in HIV-infected people. 

Dr Sivuyile Madikana says “some of the symptoms and signs of the flu may be similar and overlap with Covid-19 and make it difficult for people and health care workers to tell the difference. It is important to get the flu vaccine this season.” 

He adds that getting the flu vaccine will protect people against the various forms of the influenza virus this season. The vaccine can prevent or mitigate the severity of the flu, but more importantly, it will help simplify the evaluation process of patients, helping to differentiate them from those with a more serious condition. 

Lee Callakoppen , Principal Officer of Bonitas Medical Fund, gives five facts about flu:

1.  Flu strains, like fashion, change every year

Flu strains have a built in survival mechanism, they mutate or change so they outwit the body’s immune response. Which is why each year flu vaccinations are updated, meaning last year’s won’t necessarily protect you this year. 

2. The symptoms of flu?

These include high temperatures, body pain, sore throat, tiredness, loss of appetite and are the same year in and year out. However, some flu strains may cause the symptoms to last for a longer time and be more severe. The flu can also bring on headaches, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. In people with weaker immune systems, the flu is even more serious. 

3. The flu shot doesn’t gives you flu

According to the Centre for Disease Control, a flu shot cannot cause flu and serious allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are rare. However, if you are allergic to eggs you need to notify your doctor.

Flu vaccines are currently made either with flu vaccine viruses that have been "inactivated" and are not infectious or with no flu viruses at all. The most common side-effects from the shot are small amounts of soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling around the injection site. 

4. Protecting yourself and your family

The flu vaccine reduces your chances of getting flu and, if you do get it, it will be milder.The vaccine trains your body to recognise flu and fight it. More importantly, if you are vaccinated you will protect others, via what is called "herd immunity". This includes vulnerable members of the family such as such as small babies and the elderly as well as those who are immune-compromised.

5. Some of the reasons people don’t vaccinate

There are a number of reasons, including the notion that:  "I don’t get flu", "the vaccine doesn’t work", "it will hurt my arm" or "the vaccine will give me flu".  However,there are very good clinical reasons why you should.

You can get your  flu vaccines at Clicks, Dischem or Pick n Pay pharmacies during lockdown.

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