ZAMBIA Medical Association president Dr Crispin Moyo says studies are ongoing on the implications of being co-infected with Influenza and COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Sylvia Masebo 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.
In an interview, Dr Moyo said it was possible that people could be infected with Influenza and COVID-19 at the same time.
“It is not the same infection, but it is possible that people can be co-infected, it is possible that you can have Influenza and COVID at the same time. What we don’t understand right now, what are the complications of that, does it make you sicker? Does it cause more deaths? So the authorities are actually looking at that to see the behaviour of coinfections, when you have COVID and when you get Influenza. How do the two infections work with each other in the same body? So that is what we are still trying to understand,” he said.
Dr Moyo said there would be an increase in Influenza cases during the cold season.
“You know where we are going now, people tend to call it a Flu season. It is predictable, we know that they do rise. But with the current capabilities that we have now because of infrastructure that we put in during COVID, we are even able to isolate what is causing these infections, including influenza. The cases have been detected and I think most likely it is going to spread, it is going to affect more people. That is definitely going to be the case. So we have these cases, so it is already circulating in the community, other people just end up with a sniffle, just like a Flu, like a common cold, a small number of people may end up requiring hospitalization. When you are hospitalized, outcomes could be other people dying, others surviving, with lifelong effects of the disease,” he said.
Dr Moyo said there was need to heighten COVID-19 measures in order to reduce the levels of Influenza and COVID-19 during the cold season.
“In terms of what we can do as a country, already we know that Influenza, COVID and common colds are spread through the same route. Therefore, all we need to do is to heighten the same measures that we have been implementing around COVID. Let us ensure that our people are aware that now [we] have on top of COVID, we now have Influenza and they need to continue taking the universal precautions; frequent hand washing, we need to cover our faces with face masks, we need to avoid crowded places, we need to distance when we are in crowded places. For COVID, we know we have a vaccine and we encourage people to take the vaccine. We have expired almost K16.4 million worth of vaccines, it is just not correct for us to have all these vaccines and then waste them. People need to come forward and get vaccinated,” said Dr Moyo.
“Those who are vaccinated please get boosted, at least one infection will be taken care of which is COVID so that when you by any chance get Influenza, at least you have protection against one of the major diseases. We have not started vaccinating against Influenza yet in Zambia, but if we look at the surveillance work going on now, some of those measures might become necessary in future to vaccinate our people during the Flu season to avoid unnecessary hospitalization and death due to Influenza.”