HEALTH Minister Sylvia Masebo has announced an outbreak of Influenza, a common cold with symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, at the University of Zambia Great East Road Campus.

And Masebo says if parents do not communicate their desire to keep their eligible children unvaccinated, they will all be jabbed once schools reopen.

Meanwhile, Masebo says there were four COVID-19 related deaths in the past 24 hours, all of them being unvaccinated individuals.

Speaking at a press briefing, Wednesday, Masebo said 40 samples tested at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) revealed that all, except one, were infected with influenza but tested negative to COVID-19.

“On 27th April 2022, the Lusaka District Health Office was notified of an increase in persons presenting with flu-like symptoms around the University of Zambia Great East Road campus. Our Disease Intelligence team led by the Zambia National Public Health Institute investigated the upsurge in flu-like illness amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. A total of 40 samples were collected and tested at the National Virology Laboratory based at the University Teaching Hospital. The investigation revealed all, except one were infected with Influenza H3N2. This is a positivity rate of 97.5% among those sampled. None of the patients were positive for COVID-19,” she said.

“The age range of those infected was 14 to 47 years, with 23 being male and 16 females. Influenza is a common respiratory disease that affects people globally. It is a common cold flu with signs and symptoms similar to those presented in COVID-19. These include fever, chills, headache, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, congestion of chest and runny nose. Some people may have vomiting and even diarrhoea, though this is more common in children than in adults. Influenza is caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The viruses spread from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, releasing droplets with the virus into the air and potentially into the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.”

Masebo said it was possible to spread the influenza virus even before exhibiting symptoms.

“Again, this is the same way COVID-19 is transmitted. Persons at higher risk of influenza include those under 2 years old or 65 years and older; pregnant women or those who recently gave birth; and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, or HIV. The prevention measures include; Avoiding contact with people with suspected cases and those who are sick, please stay home when you are sick. Practice good cough etiquette when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or if you do not have one, cough or sneeze into your folded elbow. Having a mask on prevents spread and will also protect uninfected persons. Practice frequent hand washing and sanitising,” Masebo said.

“If someone in your home has the flu, clean and disinfect surfaces, especially high touch surfaces like door handles, sinks and counters. Strengthen your immune system by following a healthy nutrient rich diet (especially with Vitamin C) and exercising regularly. Keeping warm with the neck and chest covered, taking warm fluids and having enough rest. It is important to note that one may be able to spread flu to someone else before they themselves present with obvious flu symptoms, as well as while sick. While at this, we must continue to fight off the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us remember that the preventative five golden rules apply effectively in the prevention and control of influenza and other infections.”

And Masebo said four new COVID-19 associated deaths had been recorded in the last 24 hours.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. In the last 24 hours, we recorded 93 new COVID-19 cases out of 2,067 tests. Of the new cases, eight were admitted to treatment facilities. On a sad note we recorded four new COVID-19 associated deaths, all of whom were unvaccinated individuals. We urge all eligible persons to please get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity. The vaccines are safe, effective and freely available at numerous centres dotted around the country,” she said.

Meanwhile, Masebo said all eligible children would be vaccinated in schools, unless parents communicated otherwise.

“As we are drawing close to schools opening, we have to urge our parents to ensure that their eligible children get vaccinated before they return to school. If your child will go to school without being vaccinated, as government we will be going round schools and we will be carrying our vaccinations. What that means is that those parents who will not have managed to get their children vaccinated, we would expect those parents to ensure that as they send their child back to school, they also inform the school on whether their child will get vaccinated or not. If they keep quiet, we will assume that they have accepted that we vaccinate their child. So there are two options here. Better you as a parent take your child to get vaccinated before they return to school. If your child goes to school without being vaccinated and you want us at the school to vaccinate the child, give that consent. Keeping silent will mean that you have accepted. So please if you are saying no make sure you inform the school,” said Masebo.