According to a Weekend Argus report, local health authorities are predicting that South Africa is not likely to have the virulent H3N3 flu virus that has hit the northern hemisphere, but could see more cases of swine flu.
The Western Cape Health Department said the H1N1 strain had been around for at least nine years. Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said: “A(H1N1) or “swine flu” has been the prominent strain detected thus far. “This strain of flu has been part of our influenza strains circulating since 2009. As new strains of the flu emerge every year, the flu vaccine is updated to protect specifically against the viruses most likely to infect people worldwide that year. “This is based on data collected from global influenza surveillance.”
The report says according to the latest information from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, 98% of influenza infections recorded thus far have been the A(H1N1) strain. Dr Sibongile Walaza, a medical epidemiologist with the institute, said while H3N2 was the predominant circulating strain in the northern hemisphere in 2017/18 and had been the predominant strain in SA last year, “we did not experience the same severity as was seen in the northern hemisphere”.
“This year the predominant strain is A(H1N1), and the level of transmission is similar to previous years. This was the strain that emerged globally in 2009 and which for the past several years has behaved like any strain of seasonal influenza – patients infected with this strain should be treated like any other seasonal influenza case.
“At this stage there is nothing to suggest the South African influenza season will be more severe. We are monitoring the season on an ongoing basis.”
The report says the flu season in South Africa started in the first week of May and is expected to go on until September.
Dr Leon Naidoo, a physician and specialist pulmonologist at Netcare Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, said generally one had to “sit out a cold or flu infection”. “Most people will just need to treat the symptoms and require a few days bed rest.
“However, if any of the symptoms, such as fever, cough, headache or congestion persist, one should consult a doctor. If the symptoms do not improve it may be an indication that you have developed a more serious secondary infection or complication, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.”