Flu season is here and it's time to safeguard against it: NICD

17 May 2019 - 06:19 By Naledi Shange
The NICD is encouraging South Africans to vaccinate against the flu.
The NICD is encouraging South Africans to vaccinate against the flu.
Image: marcduf / Istock.com

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has reminded South Africans to protect themselves against the flu.

The institute said South Africa was already in influenza season, which usually ran from May to August. 

"During this time, we see a marked increase in cases of influenza in the community, as well as people seeking care for influenza-like illness at healthcare facilities,” the institute said.

“The influenza season is considered to have started when the influenza detections in the influenza-like illness surveillance sentinel surveillance programme (Viral Watch) rises above the seasonal threshold, as determined by the Moving Epidemic Method (a sequential analysis using the R Language), and this increase is sustained. The seasonal threshold was reached in week 16 (the week ending 21 April).

“While there have been low levels of influenza circulating since March, the number of specimens testing positive for influenza in all three surveillance programmes (influenza-like illness in public health and private practitioners, and pneumonia surveillance) has increased since mid-April,” the institute said.

The NICD stressed that the best protection against influenza was to be vaccinated, adding that those most vulnerable to contracting the illness were pregnant women, HIV-infected adults, the elderly and those vulnerable due to pre-existing illnesses or risk factors.

“Individuals at increased risk of severe influenza disease should be prioritised to receive influenza vaccine,” the NICD said.

The vaccine took two weeks to take effect and was available at state and private medical facilities.