Home Health Winter Is Coming: Health Department Warns of Heightened Risk of Respiratory Infections

Winter Is Coming: Health Department Warns of Heightened Risk of Respiratory Infections

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National Department of Health is calling on South Africans to brace themselves for a challenging winter, emphasizing the heightened risk of respiratory infections, including the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza (flu), and the ongoing presence of COVID-19.

Respiratory infections

National Department of Health is calling on South Africans to brace themselves for a challenging winter, emphasizing the heightened risk of respiratory infections, including the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza (flu), and the ongoing presence of COVID-19.

With RSV already making its rounds at an alarming rate and flu season on the horizon, the department, in collaboration with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), is stressing the importance of increased vigilance and the adoption of preventative measures to safeguard the health of the nation.

RSV, primarily a concern for the young and the elderly, is seeing a significant spike, leadings many to confuse its symptoms with those of COVID-19. “It’s peak RSV season,” reports the NICD, outlining the potential for these viruses to mimic one another, despite their differences.

While the flu has not hit its peak, early indications suggest an upward trend in cases, with the Department of Health advocating for flu vaccinations, especially among those considered at high risk. This group includes the elderly, individuals with chronic heart and lung conditions, as well as those living with HIV and TB, and pregnant individuals.

Available for free at public clinics for high-risk individuals and for purchase at private pharmacies, the flu vaccine stands as a critical line of defense against the potentially severe consequences of the virus.

To stem the spread of these respiratory viruses, the public is urged to practice good hygiene: covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, avoiding close contact with others, staying home when unwell, and not touching the face with unwashed hands. These simple measures can significantly reduce the transmission of viruses.

Symptoms to watch for include a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. “If your child shows any of these signs, especially breathing difficulties, it’s crucial they get checked by a healthcare provider without delay,” the Department of Health advises.

As the flu can be contagious from three to eight days after symptoms appear, everyone, particularly those who are ill, is recommended to wear masks and practice social distancing.

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