A flu outbreak has hit Bulawayo resulting in hundreds of children seeking medication, a development which experts say is a result of fluctuating weather patterns.
The flu which is an upper respiratory tract infection usually resolve within seven to 10 days but has Covid-19 like symptoms which put a lot of parents and guardians in panic mode.
Some children also vomit and lose appetite and parents are saying the symptoms cannot be cleared by over-the-counter medication.
In an interview Bulawayo director of Health Services Dr Edwin Sibanda said the flu is a common viral infection that affects the nose, throat and airways.
“There is an outbreak of the upper respiratory tract infection and its affecting many children in Bulawayo but I do not have the exact numbers now. There were suspicious that the the flu was infact Covid-19,” said Dr Sibanda.
He said those with the flu have Covid-19 like symptoms although there would be differences in severity.
“Residents should take their children to health centres though under normal circumstances flu goes away without treatment. This flu due to weather changes has been spreading easily,” he said.
Dr Sibanda said the problem with respiratory symptoms and flu in particular, is that there are no
confirmatory tests being done to know what bug exactly is going around.
“With the changes in weather, it is expected that these symptoms will increase. The prevention measures are the same as for Covid-19, it’s a matter of strengthening what we are doing for Covid-19,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory said influenza testing had been halted in Zimbabwe due to shortages of test kits.
Covid-19 pandemic according to the lab has given rise to the need for surveillance of other Influenza viruses.
“The National Microbiology Reference Laboratory has capacity through existing infrastructure to test for all Influenza viruses.
Influenza screening has not been routinely done at NMRL due to lack of test kits. A kit that has been recently donated by WHO for initial surveillance of influenza was used to screen a few samples that have been coming in. However, the kit lacks independent validation in-country hence the need to send samples for confirmatory testing at the Regional Influenza Surveillance Network Laboratory in South Africa,” read the statement.
“There is also need to have commercial panels of Influenza strains so as to enable in country evaluations of Influenza PCR kits. Influenza A is known to cause common colds and is commonly associated with seasonal outbreaks hence the need to build local capacity for Influenza screening.”
The NBRL said there is also need to mobilise resources for sequencing to enable identification of the actual strain responsible for the reported illnesses.
A parent Ms Sinikiwe Ncube said she had to rush her two-year-old daughter to the doctor after failing to contain the cold with over-the-counter medication.
“At first I thought her temperature was rising due to the clothes she was wearing as weather conditions changed within hours. She then had a running nose and after using the usual remedy, I went to the doctor who confirmed there was a bug making rounds in the city,” she said.
Ms Ncube said the cold can clear and then resurface after a few days and her daughter has been taking treatment non stop for two months.
“Sometimes she can start vomiting and I now understand that it is part of symptoms affecting her,” she said.
Mrs Lynet Nyandoro said the fluctuating weather conditions left her twin sons unable to attend school for more than a week.
“I was convinced that my children had Covid-19 as they were weak and sickly which was worsened by the fact that most over the counter medications did not work. The nurses finally told me there is a prevalent bug affecting under-fives. I was relieved when they both tested negative for Covid-19,” said Mrs Nyandoro. -Chronicle