New study finds that South Africa has high influenza burden

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • Asymptomatic people drive flu infections
  • Children under the age of five years have the highest rates of flu
  • Researchers say that vaccinating children is the key to lowering flu transmission rates

A new South African study has found that people with asymptomatic flu infections are a significant driver of transmitting flu viruses. 

The research published in The Lancet Global Health suggests that strategies, such as quarantine and isolation, might be ineffective to control influenza, and vaccines may be the most effective way to slow down transmission.

Collecting samples

The study conducted by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Perinatal HIV Research Unit, WITS Agincourt HDSS and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention collected  81 430 nasopharyngeal samples from 1 116 participants in 225 households in the North West and Mpumalanga.

Nasopharyngeal samples were collected twice a week and tested in labs for influenza between 2017 and 2018. Households with two or more people living together were included in the study.

Tracing transmissions

The findings of the study show that young children were more likely to transmit influenza. Children under five years of age had the highest rates of flu infection and repeat infections. With increasing age, the rates of infection, however, decreased.

The research also found that more than 35% of the people had at least one infection annually, and 17% of them had a repeat infection during the same year.

The results also show that just more than half of the flu infections were symptomatic, indicating the presence of a high number of asymptomatic influenza infections. Asymptomatic people accounted for transmitting the flu to approximately 6% of household contacts.

According to the study authors, this indicates that strategies, such as quarantine and isolation, might not be effective to control influenza and that the key to lowering flu transmission is the vaccination of children.

You can sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

READ| Scientists identify specific genes associated with Covid-19 risk

READ| Covid-19 during pregnancy poses a low risk to newborns, new research shows

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
11% - 2309 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
48% - 9929 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
37% - 7673 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
4% - 764 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.