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Flu shots will help lessen Covid and flu double infection surge in third wave

5 March 2021 11:10 AM
Tags:
Flu
Vaccinations
Influenza
flu shot
COVID-19

Head Of Infectious Diseases at UCT, Prof Marc Mendelson talk to John Maytham about the 'double-whammy' of Covid-19 and flu.

Prof Marc Mendelson's column in The Daily Maverick To avoid a Covid-flu double whammy, we need a robust influenza vaccination and prevention planraises some questions about influenza and whether a flu shot could help avoid a double infection.

Last year we did not really see the normal winter flu epidemic.

Prof Mark Mendelson, Head Of Infectious Diseases - UCT

Hospitals did not see anything like normal influenza cases last year.

We had some initial cases of influenza in our hospitals around February and early March in 2020, but the lockdown, the school closures, and various other factors really put paid to it.

Prof Mark Mendelson, Head Of Infectious Diseases - UCT

Like SARS-CoV2, the influenza virus changes all the time.

The only predictable thing about influenza is its unpredictability.

Prof Mark Mendelson, Head Of Infectious Diseases - UCT

Normal influenza season is predicted every year in South Africa around May, June, July he says.

We are no longer in full lockdown, that schools are going to be reopening, and we know schools are quite a melting pot for influenza transmission, and there are a few travellers coming in.

Prof Mark Mendelson, Head Of Infectious Diseases - UCT

These factors along with people moving indoors for winter could increase flu transmission to a large number of people, and could well see an influenza epidemic like is normally seen annually in winter, he notes.

We may not see this, but we cannot afford to have this double-whammy of an influenza epidemic and potentially a third wave of Covid at the same time. it would put massive strain potentially on our health system.

Prof Mark Mendelson, Head Of Infectious Diseases - UCT

How do we minimise and mitigate the risk of this happening?

The public health interventions in place, such as social distancing, masking up, hand sanitising will help, he says.

Like Covid, influenza is also a virus transmitted from the respiratory tract and therefore you are reducing droplet spread

Prof Mark Mendelson, Head Of Infectious Diseases - UCT

The other key public health intervention is to avoid indoor mass gatherings, he says.

The third public health intervention, particularly for the high-risk influenza category of people, is to have an influenza vaccination, he notes.

These flu shots need to be administered annually, with the top high-risk group being pregnant women, those with HIV, chronic lung disease, chronic cardiac disease, those with neurological problems, diabetics, and people with morbid obesity.

In addition, healthcare workers are an important group to receive flu shots so as to prevent transmission to vulnerable patients, he adds.

Every year a new flu vaccine is prepared in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO) based on the dominant flu strains and this is done beforehand.

There is a flu vaccine and South Africa procures about 800,000 to 1 million doses per year and starts being rolled out from mid-March to late April.

Prof Mark Mendelson, Head Of Infectious Diseases - UCT

One cannot predict what is going to happen, but if we do get an influenza season, vaccination is an excellent prevention tool.

Prof Mark Mendelson, Head Of Infectious Diseases - UCT

Listen to the interview with Prof Mendelson in the audio below:




5 March 2021 11:10 AM
Tags:
Flu
Vaccinations
Influenza
flu shot
COVID-19

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