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Health talk: Flu is on the rampage

By Dr Johannes Marisa

Many people have developed Covid-19 fatigue and mentioning this virus is just viewed as monotonous.

We woke up last week to the social media talk that Nashville High School had students who were infected with the stubborn virus.

The ranting voice claimed that her son was diagnosed of Covid-19 and was telling other parents to rush and collect their children from the school.

I knew it that it was unlikely to be Covid-19 because there is currently an outbreak of flu especially amongst school children.

We urge the general populace not to send messages that cause panic and alarm amongst citizens.

The ministry of Health reacted swiftly with the Provincial Medical Director, Dr Mary Muchekeza, sending a reaction team that tested all suspicious students. Noone was Covid-19 positive. Hats off to Gweru team for the job well done. You showed the nation how diligent you are!

Many people do not know that influenza can come with outbreaks as well, affecting many people at one time and causing symptoms similar to Covid-19.

It is, therefore, wise to get the correct medical diagnosis unlike believing in self diagnoses which may be misleading and frightening. Seek expert help.

Flu is a viral infection that attacks the respiratory system that includes the nose, throat or the lungs. Influenza is commonly called flu and it can come in outbreaks which may be deadly.

Risk factors

There are risk groups that flu takes advantages on. These include the following:

  • Those below five years, especially the less than six months.
  • Those older than 65 years.
  • Pregnant mothers and up to two weeks after birth.
  • People with chronic illnesses such as asthma, heart disease orliver disease.
  • Obesity.
  • Smoking.

Symptoms and signs

Symptoms and signs can be confused with Covid-19 symptoms. With Covid-19, there is usually an accompanying sore throat which may be absent in flu. The following are some of the common symptoms and signs:

  • Tiredness
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breadth
  • Fever
  • Chills and rigors
  • Aching muscles
  • Headache

For those who have noted something, the symptoms are similar to Covid-19 as both are viruses. Distinction comes via testing and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the standard test for both types of infection.

Please treat flu as an emergency if you notice the following signs and symptoms:

  • Difficult in breathing.
  • Cyanosis.
  • Persistent chest pains.
  • Dehydration.
  • Severe muscle pains.
  • Seizures.
  • Worsening of existing medical conditions.

You have to visit your clinician for further action. The viral infection can worsen or complicate to give conditions such as:

  • Pneumonia.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Asthma flare-ups.
  • Heart problems.
  • Ear infections.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Do not, therefore, delay to seek medical attention if signs are pointing to obvious complications because it may be very fatal.

Since the virus can spread from one source to another,it is imperative to realise that our hands are very important in the control of infections.

The following are some of the common measures that can be followed in order to reduce transmission:

  • Hand-washing, especially with running soapy water. Sanitisation can be done, but with alcohol-based sanitisers. Washing with soap should be for duration of not less than 20 seconds.
  • Avoid unnecessary touching of mucous membranes like mouth, eyes or nostrils as infection can be easily introduced to the body.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes so that you avoid transmission to the next person. You can cough into the axilla so that droplets do not fly to the next person.
  • Avoid crowds as infection can be fast with large gatherings.
  • Flu vaccine has been used worldwide and has proved to be of use to the control of flu.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of flu will depend on the available symptoms and signs. Proper history taking should be done in order not to miss the diagnosis.

  • Nasal swabs can be taken for PCR. The virus can be isolated and distinction with Covid-19 is made.
  • Other supporting investigations include doing chest X-ray, doing full blood count (FBC), ESR, C-Reactive Protein (CRP).

Management

Viruses have no cure but they can be suppressed and their effects will be mitigated against. The following measures are common with flu:

  • Lots of oral fluids
  • Rest
  • Symptomatic management of the condition with drugs like painkillers being taken into the fray.
  • For those with dehydration,  they need intravenous fluids
  • There are anti-virals that are used in other cases and these include Tamiflu, Zanamivir, Peramivir and many more.

Be careful about flu as it is already spreading fast, especially among school children.

It can be very fatal so seek early medical attention to avoid complications.

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