On 27th April 2022, the Lusaka District Health Office was notified of an increase in persons presenting with flu-like symptoms around the University of Zambia Great East Road campus. Our Disease Intelligence team led by the Zambia National Public Health Institute investigated the upsurge in flu-like illness amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
A total of 40 samples were collected and tested at the National Virology Laboratory, based at the University Teaching Hospital. The investigation revealed all except one (1) were infected with Influenza H3N2. This is a positivity rate of 97.5% among those sampled. None of the patients were positive for COVID-19.
The age range of those infected was 14 to 47 years, with 23 being male and 16 females.
Influenza is a common respiratory disease that affects people globally. It is a common cold flu with signs and symptoms similar to those presented in COVID-19. These include fever, chills, headache, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, congestion of chest and runny nose. Some people may have vomiting and even diarrhoea, though this is more common in children than in adults.
Influenza is caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The viruses spread from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, releasing droplets with the virus into the air and potentially into the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.
Again, this is the same way COVID-19 is transmitted.
Persons at higher risk of influenza include those under 2 years old or 65 years and older; pregnant women or those who recently gave birth; and those with a chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, or HIV.
The prevention measures include:
1. Avoiding contact with people suspected cases and those who are sick; PLEASE stay home when you are sick.
2. Practice good cough etiquette: when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or if you do not have one, cough or sneeze into your folded elbow. Having a mask on prevents spread and will also protect uninfected persons.
3. Practice frequent handwashing and sanitising.
4. If someone in your home has the flu, clean and disinfect surfaces, especially high touch surfaces like door handles, sinks and counters.
5. Strengthen your immune system by following a healthy nutrient rich diet (especially with Vitamin C) and exercising regularly.
6. Keeping warm with neck and chest covered, taking warm fluids and having enough rest.
It is important to note that one may be able to spread flu to someone else before they themselves present with obvious flu symptoms, as well as while sick.
While at this, we must continue to fight off the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us remember that the preventative five golden rules apply effectively in the prevention and control of influenza and other infections.
Members of the Press, country men and women, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. In the last 24 hours, we recorded 93 new COVID-19 cases out of 2,067 tests. Of the new cases, eight were admitted to treatment facilities. On a sad note we recorded four new COVID-19 associated deaths, all of whom were unvaccinated individuals. We urge all eligible persons to please get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity. The vaccines are safe, effective and freely available at numerous centres dotted around the country. To date, we have fully vaccinated close to 2.5million people, and over 110,000 have received their booster vaccination. We are also pleased to report that the number of children 12-17 years old who have been vaccinated continues to rise with over 260,000 so far having received their first dose, and of these 39,979 are fully vaccinated. As the school holidays draw to a close, we urge all parents to ensure that their eligible children are vaccinated before they return to school for the upcoming term.
Make the safe choice for you and your family. Get vaccinated today.
I thank you and God bless you all
Hon. Sylvia T. Masebo, MP
Minister of Health