Doctors: Take flu seriously

2019-06-28 16:34

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With flu season in full swing and several cases of the H1N1 influenza (swine flu) reported in the city, doctors have warned that while it is now treated like the usual flu strains, it is still “a significant illness”.

The H1N1 flu is part of a strain of Influenza A.

Scores of people still continue to be hospitalised due to influenza, including H1N1 and another more common strain, H3N2.

The virus popped up globally in 2009 as a result of a previous triple re-assortment of bird, swine and human flu viruses combined with a Eurasian pig flu virus.

This led to the term “swine flu” being used to describe it.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has, however, said that using this term is incorrect and refers to influenza in pigs, and not humans.

According to the Department of Health’s national influenza policy and strategic plan, a cumulative total of 2 640 cases and 93 deaths from H1N1 had been laboratory confirmed by the end of November 2009.

While the pandemic ended in August 2010, people are still being hospitalised due to influenza and its complications.

Life Hilton Private Hospital manager Nicholas Thorne said their hospital had 16 admissions over the last 90 days with the Influenza A virus (H1N1 and H3N2).

“Influenza is not to be underestimated, especially when it comes to those who are at high risk,” he said.

Life Hilton Hospital emergency unit Dr David Ogg said: “H1N1 is still a significant infection especially for people with pre-existing respiratory issues or chest infections as well as pregnant women, children under one year and people over the age of 65.”

He said while people were still admitted to hospital with the Influenza A strain H2N3, the H1N1 strain was more virulent as it is a relatively new virus, and people are unlikely to have any pre-existing immunity to this strain.

Ogg said it was not uncommon for a patient to be placed on a ventilator for an extended period with viral pneumonia, usually a complication of either H1N1 or H2N3.

He said those in the high-risk bracket had a greater chance of developing viral pneumonia, which was “difficult to treat”.

“People must not underestimate the flu, especially within the vulnerable populations. It is a major illness.

“In 1918, 50 million people died of Spanish flu,” he said. Ogg said the best preventative step one could take against the flu was the flu vaccination.

“There are more benefits to it than disadvantages,” he said.

He added that drinking lots of fluids, taking paracetamol for fevers and lots of bed rest were very important for the recovery process.

A pulmonologist, who asked not to be named for professional reasons, said people more susceptible to the flu were invariably admitted to hospital or put into ICU and that it was viewed as a serious illness.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, specimens were taken from 845 patients. Flu was detected in 87 specimens and only 13 were identified as H1N1.

During the same period, specimens were received from 780 patients from the “Viral Watch programme” from sites in six provinces.

Since April this year, flu was detected in 518 patients, of which 20 had H1N1.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  swine flu

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