MINISTRY of Health Director of Infectious Diseases Professor Lloyd Mulenga says Influenza is not as lethal as COVID-19 and hasn’t been a major public health problem.

In an interview, Prof Mulenga said COVID-19 barely affected the lower parts of the lungs.

“Yes, it’s possible [to contract COVID-19 and influenza at the same time]. When you look at Covid, Covid affects the airways and those airways once they are affected, there are certain cells which it multiplies inside in the lungs and it establishes itself in those same cells. Now the influenza, remember it’s a virus, there are two types of influenza, type A and type B. And what we are dealing with is type A and again there are a lot of what you can call variants as well,” he said.

“Covid affects Alveolar cells whereas as this one affects the lining of the respiratory system. The lining of the airways, which are affected by the influenza and that causes an inflammation or establishment of the infection in the airways. So the mechanism through which they affect the lungs are different. And also one thing you need to note is that influenza barely affects the lower parts of the lungs whereas Covid can affect the lower parts of the lungs and causes pneumonia. You can have an individual getting both influenza and also Covid.”

Prof Mulenga said Influenza had not been a major public health problem, which was why the ministry had not invested in vaccinations against the same.

“Let’s say someone has TB and they have influenza, someone has chronic lung condition and they have influenza, then it speeds up the acceleration of the other infection. Otherwise, it’s not as lethal as Covid. It’s a virus, just like Covid is caused by a virus, even influenza, it’s a virus which causes the influenza. Influenza doesn’t have chronic life long effects although there have been some cases of people after recovering from influenza, a chronic fatigue just like Covid and it may be similar to what is called post-viral syndrome,” said Prof Mulenga.

“Yes there is a vaccine for influenza and usually you may have heard of it called a season flu vaccine. Because almost every season you have a new variant of influenza, so even the vaccines have to be changed as well to suit the new variant or the new strain. It’s one of the vaccine-preventable diseases. We are not vaccinating against influenza. Remember it hasn’t been a major public health problem in our area so there are a lot of diseases which can be vaccinated against, but because we don’t have high frequency of that influenza that is the reason we cannot invest in the vaccination.”