Johannesburg, 9 June 2021: Flu causes up to 650,000 deaths worldwide and over 11,000 deaths in South Africa each year.
Severe illness caused by flu affects between 3 and 5 million people worldwide, including over 45,000 South Africans each year. Almost 50 percent of affected South Africans require hospitalisation.
The WHO strongly supports the administration of the flu vaccine amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Preventing and reducing the severity of illness associated with flu, will ease the burden on those most vulnerable, and on the healthcare system. While hand and respiratory hygiene, social distancing practices, and travel restrictions may have reduced the transmission of flu in 2020, as global travel restrictions ease, flu transmission may increase.
Flu viruses circulate worldwide at different times of the year, with South Africa’s seasonal flu usually occurring between May and September. Flu spreads quickly and can affect anyone, regardless of their state of health or their age. It can be particularly severe and complicated for people with chronic diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis (TB), diabetes and other metabolic disorders, as well as cardiac, pulmonary, renal, hepatic, neurological, haemoglobin and immunosuppressive disorders (high risk groups). Infants younger than 2 years of age, elderly people over 65, pregnant women and individuals who are morbidly obese are also at higher risk of developing severe and complicated flu. This typically leads to hospitalisation and often death.
The most effective way to prevent flu is through annual vaccination. Flu vaccines are effective and provide immune protection against the viruses that cause flu. In some people (e.g. the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems), the flu vaccine may not be able to prevent flu entirely, but it does reduce the severity of illness and the risk of complications, hospitalisation and death. Flu vaccination is especially important for high risk groups. It is also mandatory that healthcare workers are vaccinated against the flu, provided they do not have any allergies to the vaccine constituents.
Flu vaccination is a critical public healthcare measure considering the possible co-circulation of both the flu and SARS-COV-2 viruses in the absence of a hard lockdown. It is important to remember that the COVID-19 vaccine will not prevent the flu and vice versa, therefore it is critical to ensure that the public is vaccinated against both pathogens.
Ask your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare provider how you can get a grip on flu this season
Brought to you in the interests of good health by Sanofi Pasteur.
1. World Health Organization. Flu (Seasonal). Available from: https://www.who.int/newsroom/ fact-sheets/detail/flu-(seasonal). Accessed October 2019.
2. Blumberg L, Cohen C, Dawood H, et al. Flu NICD Recommendations for the diagnosis, prevention, management and public health response. Available from: http://www.nicd.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Flu-guidelines-rev_-23-April-2018.pdf. Accessed October 2019.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu Symptoms & Complications. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm. Accessed October 2019.
4. World Health Organization. WHO SAGE Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Recommendations during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Available from: https://www.who.int/immunization/policy/position_papers/Interim_SAGE_influenza_vaccination_recommendations.pdf?ua=1. Accessed November 2020.
5. Blumberg L, Cohen C, Dawood H, et al. Influenza NICD recommendations for the diagnosis, management, prevention and public health response. April 2021. Available from: https://www.nicd.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Influenza-guidelines_-April-2021-final.pdf. Accessed April 2021.