Klerksdorp Midweek, Klerksdorp - With the country in the grip of winter, flu season has also arrived.
“The countries within the northern hemis-phere, such as the United States, have had a relatively severe 2017/2018 flu season. That is a good indication that we may also have a bad flu season here in South Africa,” says Dr Van Rensburg.
According to her, the best way to protect yourself against flu is to consider having a flu shot. “It is not too late, even though it is advantageous to have the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available, typically in April, it’s always worth getting vaccinated later even if there have been flu outbreaks by this time.”
There are several myths about flu and its vaccine each season, but Dr Van Rensburg advises that it is safe. “While it does not always offer a complete safeguard against the illness, it does usually offer a good measure of protection,’’ she says.
The vaccine is made with flu viruses that have been “inactivated’’ which means that it can’t transmit an infection. The flu vaccine only protects against influenza, not other illnesses.
“Flu can be serious even in people who are otherwise healthy. Flu has a whole lot of symptoms and they can vary wildly from having no symptoms at all, to serious illness that needs hospital treatment.
“In healthy people, flu is unpleasant but usually self-limiting and people recover within 5-7 days. It is however possible to develop complications and every year people die as a result of flu. It can be especially dangerous for young children and children of any age who have certain long term health conditions, including asthma. The other group of people that have a high risk of developing complications is the elderly,’’ says Dr Van Rensburg.
Individuals most at risk of developing serious complications from flu include:
- Those who are 65 years of age and older;
- Individuals who have respiratory conditions such as asthma and emphysema;
- People who may have compromised immune systems such as HIV-positive individuals, or those undergoing radiation or chemotherapy for cancer;
- Those who have chronic conditions such as heart or kidney failure or diabetes;
- Women who are in their second or third trimester of pregnancy;
- Babies and small children.
If you are unsure about whether you have flu or a cold visit your doctor as soon as possible, as treatment for flu is more effective if started sooner than later.