Dr. Lucille Blumberg, a specialist Clinical Microbiologist at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), said many people underestimate the dangers of influenza. ‘It (influenza) is a very important cause of serious illness and, in fact, death’, she said, adding that ‘it’s responsible for a number of pneumonia cases’.
Doctors advise the elderly, very young children and people with immune problems, to vaccinate very early. ‘We do recommend flu vaccines for people who know they are HIV positive, particularly those who are very immune-suppressed’, she emphasised.
The Head of Operations at Kaelo, a company that provides corporate health solutions, Dr. Jade Myers, dispelled the myth that people can get sick from the flu vaccine. He says the vaccine contains viruses that have been deactivated. ‘They (microbiologists) take the flu virus and they take everything inside it that causes the infection out and just introduce the external covering so that your body can recognise what the virus looks like and be able to identify it if you get infected’, said Dr. Myers.
Kaelo says absenteeism in the workplace as a result of influenza and related complications, has adverse effects on the country’s economy. ‘The cost to South African corporates due to flu and respiratory illness, is about R2, 7 billion, a year’, concluded Thabang Skwambane, a Director at Kaelo.