Is it seasonal flu, COVID-19 or something else?

By Dr Grant Murewanhema

We are at the peak of our winter in Zimbabwe, and there is a strong bug in circulation. Recent reports of several hospitalised people and deaths attributable to ‘flu’ over the past few weeks have led to some distressed calls. A few weeks ago, our Ministry of Health and Child Care issued a statement, boldly stating that the current ‘bout of flu’ is due to seasonal influenza. However, in Zim, preCOVID-19, people were generally not aware of people dying from ‘flu’. Those living in Western countries are however very aware of the fact that the elderly and vulnerable do die from attacks of seasonal influenza, and for that reason, get regular flu-jabs to protect them from seasonal influenza.

So back to the question of whether the current bug in circulation is COVID-19 or seasonal influenza, I am certainly not in a position to answer that at the moment; however, I do believe the responsible authorities have heightened their surveillance and will give us an answer soon. Seasonal influenza symptoms, COVID-19 symptoms and symptoms due to just common colds can greatly mimick each other. All these can become quite serious or even fatal, especially in the elderly, those with comorbidities such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease, immunosuppressive conditions etc, and there is need to seek early supportive therapy in these groups of people to prevent disease progression, serious illness and death.

While I have not come across a COVID positive person for quite a while now, at least 12 months, the possibility of a resurgence cannot be ruled out. We do test people with suggestive symptoms admitted into health institutions for surgery or other reasons for COVID, and most institutions have not recorded any positive cases in quite a while. However, like I said already, we cannot rule that possibility out for now.

Whats critical is for the MoHCC to heighten its surveillance, for those who fall sick to seek early medical attention for supportive treatments, and for those vulnerable who are not yet sick to adopt preventive measures. These include, but are not limited to: optimisation of treatment for preexisting illnesses, boosting immune systems, getting flu-jabs and maybe ‘COVID vaccine boosters?’, eating healthy, exercising etc and obviously for us as the general public not to panic, not to raise false alarms, and to avoid circulating fake/false messages that do not come from the MoHCC or other authorities such as the WHO. Soon, we will get the answers we require from the responsible authorities.

Stay blessed and fearless.



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