Flu early but not automatically worse than before
Flu season has hit early this year with a sharp rise in the number of cases reported this week.
Flu cases usually increased at the beginning of June, but cases were reported as early as the beginning of this month, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said.
Although the early start does not necessarily mean the rest of the season will be bad, the institute issued a stern warning to people with flu-like symptoms.
Institute deputy director Lucille Blumberg said: "Stay home, go to bed and drink fluids and you'll get better."
She warned that influenza was "not the coughs and colds where you have a snotty nose", but that complications could lead to pneumonia and admission to hospital if people were not treated early enough.
"Most people with influenza will recover without complications," she said.
Flu symptoms include:
- Sudden onset of fever;
- A dry cough;
- Muscle pain;
- Cold shivers; and
Blumberg said the H1N1 strain of flu, often referred to as swine flu, was the predominant strain circulating this season.
"If you have flu symptoms, it's likely to be H1N1."
H1N1 spread in July 2009. About 91 people in South Africa died of influenza that year, a third of them pregnant women.
One critical case of swine flu has been reported at the Glynnwood hospital in Benoni, Ekurhuleni.
Blumberg urged people at high risk of getting sick to have the flu injection: "Go and do it now."