Medical professionals call on government to pay more attention to rising Mpox, cold and flu cases

South Africa - Pretoria - 29 May 2024 - Vote2024 - Voting at the Alpha runners club in Clubview. Commentators feel social distancing could have been practised to avoid the spread of disease. Picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Newspapers

South Africa - Pretoria - 29 May 2024 - Vote2024 - Voting at the Alpha runners club in Clubview. Commentators feel social distancing could have been practised to avoid the spread of disease. Picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 2, 2024


AS the country comes off a high level campaign and voting season, when all attention was turned to the elections, medical stakeholders have urged the government to urgently turn its attention to the health of the country.

This as a second case of the highly contagious and often deadly Mpox virus reared its ugly head once again, and as many people complain of a cold and flu strain they are struggling to fight.

With winter being typically cold and flu season it is expected that cases be in the increase, but, according to both the Department of Health and doctors, the incidence recorded currently was above normal.

Said the department last week: “A number of flu strains are circulating causing severe health complications in some patients.”

They acknowledged that this was being confused with COVID-19 variant which has been in circulation with low level of transmissibility and severity.

“The most commonly detected and circulating influenza subtype and lineage was the H1N1 - previously known as “swine flu” because it was causing disease in pigs; followed by influenza B/Victoria and influenza A(H3N2).”

A call for the government to scrutinise diseases in he country has been made. Pictures: David Ritchie / Independent Newspapers

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), in its surveillance, said the numbers of flu cases and positivity rates were increasing rapidly even though transmission and impact remained moderate.

“While there is a lot of influenza circulating, it is still within the expected range……” the institute said.

But, according to the many who were afflicted, affected and suffering, they were struggling to shake it off in a way they were used to.

“This cold and flu is worse than anything I have experienced, my whole family of 5 has had it for two months now, and despite everything we do - mostly as prescribed by the doctor, we are not getting better,” Zandisile Kgang from Johannesburg said.

She said some members of her family would feel better one day, but by the next they were suffering from coughing to weakness to a serious lack of appetite. “

“We have tried all medication prescribed, but we are just not getting better,” the mother said.

Government has cautioned people experiencing any of the Mpox symptoms to go to their nearest health facility for diagnosis. Supplied

Said one Netcare doctor from Pretoria, who asked not to be named as she was not authorised to speak to the media: “Whole families, groups of people working together and children who spend whole days at school together, have been making repeated visits to our facility, and no matter what we prescribe they do not shake the virus off.”

She said there was also a rising number of patients hospitalised across the country, so they could be monitored, treated and hopefully released soon. “The issue here is, they go right back into a sick society.

“We appreciate our government calling on people to be vigilant and encouraging all sectors of society to be wary, but it is time now that focus on this apparent weakness among a normally strong population be given attention,” the senior medical specialist said.

General practitioner Dr Johan Coetzee, also raising concern, said something more needed to be done.

He said: “It definitely is not Covid, but our attention as a county needs now to focus on what it is because firstly, winter is at its inception. The numbers we are seeing, which started showing in April and while it was still warm, are troubling.”

He said as a doctor who saw whole families and attended to schools and people who generally came from large office buildings, he was worried that the virus was circulating among populations with no end in sight.

“It is not a pandemic and we do not want to see another lockdown or anything, all we as doctors and people in the medical space need our authorities to pay some attention to where we are right now, or it will get worse.”

He said in addition to the normal change-of-season symptoms of fever, coughing and sore throats, patients were presenting with higher than normal temperatures, combinations of sore throats, lung infections and earaches.

“We are seeing people, young and old, coming in complaining of chills during the day and night, nausea and vomiting, and even diarrhoea. They cannot keep food down, many are struggling to eat…..and some, well, they come with all of the above,” Coetzee added.

Political commentator Nthatho Mashele said he suspected the government had been avoiding the truth behind the increased and prolonged cold and flu, as it could have: “....put a spanner in the works and disturbed the elections.”

He said as it were and with the many people recorded as having stood shoulder to shoulder to vote, for hours either in cold or the heat, the infection rates would no doubt increase.

“Never has a country needed to observe social distancing as they did on Wednesday. Never has a country need to see people abstain from being in crowds, often for as long as we saw them now, not with the flu rendering so many of them weak, and not as we have recorded cases of Mpox in at least two provinces, and even then among people who claim not to have travelled outside the country.”

Mashele said while the country had been avoiding anything and everything to destabilise the biggest election of democracy, post this was when the results of failing to pay attention to what really mattered - the health of a nation, could be detrimental.

The Department of Health has, of this past week, urged members of the public experiencing suspected symptoms of Mpox disease to go to their nearest healthcare provider for screening and testing, to ensure early diagnosis and effective treatment to prevent further spread of the disease.

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