The City of Cape Town has noted indications from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) show that there have been very few cases of influenza this winter. This may be attributed to COVID-19 mitigation measures.
This is good news, given that – like COVID-19 – the flu can cause severe complications in persons with pre-existing conditions.
The World Health Organisation estimates that annual flu epidemics result in as many as five million cases of severe illness around the world, and anywhere between 300 000 and 650 000 deaths.
“While the transmission and fatality rates for influenza are lower than those associated with COVID-19, the viruses have many similarities and the one proven mitigation measure is good hygiene. The very low incidence of influenza is effectively a consequence of the COVID-19 mitigation measures of improved hand hygiene and social distancing,” said the City’s Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, Zahid Badroodien.
“We therefore need continued vigilance and ongoing adherence to the hygiene protocols to ensure that we continue avoiding a spike in flu cases, but also COVID-19. The fact that the country is moving to Alert Level 2 of the national lockdown should not be interpreted as the green light to let our guard down; in fact, now more than ever the hygiene protocols are crucial to avoid any second wave of infections.”
Earlier this year, City Health received 22 660 flu vaccinations for administering to groups most at risk of infection, including children, pregnant women, the elderly, those with underlying chronic medical conditions or TB and those who are immunosuppressed.
City clinics have administered nearly three-quarters of these vaccines, and have approximately six thousand left in stock. Although most of those vaccinated will not contract the influenza virus, they are still susceptible to the common cold virus.
“Vaccination also reduces the risk of a patient being hospitalised as in some cases flu symptoms can lead to more serious bacterial infections, if not treated timeously. This frees up capacity in our hospital system to care for those with severe COVID-19,” Badroodien added. “We encourage persons in the at risk categories to enquire from their local clinic about the availability of vaccines and make an appointment for a flu vaccination if they haven’t received one already. However, ultimately the best defence against viruses of this nature is good hygiene.”
The public is reminded to:
– Wash hands often, with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds)
– Use hand sanitiser with an alcohol content of at least 70%
– Wear a mask or other appropriate cover over their nose and mouth at all times in public
– Avoid crowded places and maintain a social distance of 1.5 metres or more at all times
– Wipe down multi-touch surfaces in the home or workplace regularly with a solution of bleach and water