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Since the beginning of May 2023, the Department of Health has warned the public
about the rising prevalence of influenza, popularly known as “flu,” across the nation.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) alerted the department to the
growing number of cases.
The government said in a statement on Saturday that the number of illnesses has been
rising gradually since 10 April 2023 and that the NICD has received reports of influenza
clusters in workplaces and schools.
Six of the provinces under monitoring, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Western
Cape, Eastern Cape, and North West, have seen a rise in the number of cases.
Influenza or flu is an acute respiratory illness caused by an infection of the respiratory
tract with the influenza virus.
“There are two types of influenza viruses that commonly infect humans namely A and B.
The flu viruses are typically in circulation before the winter season in South Africa.
“The virus spreads from person to person through inhalation of infected respiratory
droplets when people are sneezing, coughing or talking. A person can also be infected
by touching contaminated objects or surfaces that the flu virus is on and then touching
their mouth, eyes or nose,” the department said.
When coughing, people with the flu should cover their mouth with a tissue or cough into
their elbow, wear a mask, wash their hands frequently with soap and water or sanitize
them with an alcohol-based product, stay at home, and make an effort to avoid close
contact with others.
“Although the majority of people with influenza will present with mild illness, influenza
may cause severe illness, which may require hospitalisation or cause death, especially
in individuals who are at risk of getting severe influenza illness or complications,” the
People at increased risk of severe health complications of influenza include pregnant
women, people living with conditions like HIV and other chronic illnesses or conditions
such as diabetes, lung disease, tuberculosis, heart disease, renal disease and obesity.
Elderly people, who are 65 years and older, and children younger than 2 years old are
also at increased risk of severe health complications.
The department said 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.
These may develop 1 to 4 days after infection and last for 2 to 7 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 be administered at least before the influenza season (March to
“However, even if the season has already started, it is never too late to get vaccinated,
especially individuals who are at high risk of severe influenza illness or complications,”
the department said