Influenza – prevention is better than cure
Influenza, caused by influenza A or influenza B viruses, is usually a self-limiting disease in healthy patients but is associated with increased morbidity and mortality in high-risk groups and can result in more than 11 000 deaths annually in South Africa. Non-pharmacological prevention measures reduce the spread of infection, and the incidence of influenza was reduced following the implementation of these measures in 2020 to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections. Influenza vaccination is currently the most effective method to prevent and control influenza infection. It is, on average, around 59% effective depending on the patient’s age, comorbidities and accuracy of the strains predicted for the season. Treatment for mild influenza focuses on the management of symptoms. Patients at high risk for severe and/or complicated disease should be treated for five days with antivirals (oseltamivir or zanamivir), preferably within 48 hours of onset of symptoms.