SOUTH AFRICA’S 2018 FLU SEASON

What are we in for this year and how can we prepare for it?

In January this year, some global medical experts predicted one of the worst flu seasons in history.1

“This year’s flu season is turning out to be so intense that the number of people seeking care at doctors’ offices and emergency rooms is almost as high as levels reported during the peak of the 2009-2010 swine flu pandemic, federal officials have said” – Washington Post., 9 February 2018.2

Given the global flu trends over the past year, what can we expect here?

We asked two Healthcare Practitioners what they thought might be heading our way, what symptoms to look out for, what the core differences are between a cold and flu, and most importantly, how to avoid being infected.

Dr. Toni Van Lennep, a General Practitioner from Fourways in Johannesburg, said that throughout June, July and August every year her practice sees a surge in patients infected by colds and flu. While many people seem to think that the local 2017 winter flu season was one of the worst ever, both doctors disagree. “I don’t necessarily think there were greater numbers and still found the 2010 outbreak of H1N1 or Swine flu was probably the worst season I have experienced,” says Dr. Sarahan Brophy who runs a family medicine practice in Sea Point, Cape Town.

Dr. Brophy says that, based on previous year’s trends, we should see a similar trend in the Southern Hemisphere this winter as well.

But what is the difference between a common cold and influenza?

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, while colds and flu can have similar symptoms, the following are some of the key differences:

Influenza has a rapid onset and is usually accompanied by symptoms which include a fever, aches, fatigue and weakness as well as possible headaches and chest discomfort and coughing. A cold is more gradual in onset and is usually accompanied by sneezing, a stuffy nose and a sore throat.3

When should I see a doctor?

If your symptoms are uncontrolled by over the counter medication, if you have a fever, if you are unable to tolerate fluids, are experiencing a worsening cough and difficulties in breathing and/or weakness then it is definitely time to visit your doctor. “A patient should see their doctor if they suspect they may have influenza as antiviral therapy can be given to reduce the severity of the illness and prevent complications,” Dr. Brophy explains.

Do antibiotics always work?

According to Dr. Johannes Claassen from the Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein, not only are antibiotics overprescribed, but the antibiotics chosen are often more expensive and of a broader spectrum than needed. He says that approximately 75 % of patients who go to their doctor with a sore throat will be prescribed antibiotics, even through this will only help a minority of patients.4

This is because most colds and flu are caused by viruses. Infections such as strep throat or whooping cough and sometimes bronchitis, and sinus or ear infections, can be effectively treated with antibiotics as these are caused by bacterial infections.5

Stock up this winter with effective over the counter treatments to help ease the symptoms of colds and flu. These include Andolex-C Spray and Oral Rinse for patients suffering from a sore throat, mouth and or gums with infection. 6 Go to www.andolex.co.za for more information about effective remedies for sore throats.

iNova also offers solutions for patients suffering from sneezing and itchy, runny or blocked noses or allergies7,8 as well as for those with cold sores or fever blisters.9 For a wet or dry cough, ask your pharmacist for a solution to suit your wet or dry cough symptoms or go to www.knowyourcough.co.za for more information.

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about effective treatments to help ease your cold and flu symptoms this winter ends.

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

Name and business address of applicant: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Limited. Co. Reg. No.1952/001640/07, 15E Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. www.inovapharma.co.za. For full prescribing information, refer to the individual package inserts as approved by the Medicines Control Council (MCC). Further information is available on request from iNova Pharmaceuticals. IN2641/18

References:

  1. Get ready, some medical experts are predicting the worst flu season in history – CNBC (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/09/medical-experts-predict-worst-flu-season-in-history.html) Website accessed on 20 March 2018
  2. This flu season has now reached pandemic levels (but it’s not technically a pandemic) – The Washington Post. 9 February 2018 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/02/09/this-flu-season-has-now-reached-pandemic-levels-but-its-not-technically-a-pandemic/?utm_term=.ffe490b9c160). Website accessed on 11 March 2018
  3. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – Cold Versus Flu (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/coldflu.htm (Website accessed on 4 April 2018)
  4. Claasen, J. The Sore Throat.Continuing Medical Education, Vol 30, No 9 (2012)
  5. Do I Need an Antibiotic? Bacterial vs. Viral Infections – HealthyMePA. 21 February 2017 (https://www.healthymepa.com/2017/02/21/do-you-need-antibiotics/) Website accessed on 09 March 2018
  6. Simard-Savoie S, et al. Topical anaesthetic activity of benzydamine. Curr Ther Res 1978;23(6):634-745.
  7. Allerguard package insert
  8. Approved package insert.
  9. Approved Acitop Package Insert