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Thanks to anti-COVID efforts, expert says South Africa “didn’t have a flu season this year”

Johannesburg — The coronavirus pandemic has delivered a lot of devastating information over the previous few months, however in South Africa, the digital elimination of the widespread flu stands out as a uncommon optimistic facet impact. As COVID-19 reached South Africa‘s doorstep in March, epidemiologists braced themselves for a double whammy — the lethal new coronavirus on high of the devastation induced yearly by influenza.   

Special monitoring items have been arrange by the nation’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases, the NICD. They waited, and watched, however there was nothing.   

“What happened was completely unprecedented and unexpected in that, in fact, what we saw is that we just didn’t have a flu season this year in South Africa. That really is unprecedented,” Dr. Cheryl Cohen, co-head of the NICD’s Centre for Respiratory Disease and Meningitis, advised CBS News.  

On common this nation data round 11,000 deaths from influenza yearly, and South Africa has very superior flu monitoring surveillance applications. Three separate labs display about 4,000 folks at random and, most years, they report greater than 1,000 flu circumstances. This 12 months there was just one reported case of the flu virus from these labs. 


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Some consultants credited the closure of South Africa’s borders with the digital elimination of seasonal flu this 12 months, and positively airports like the main worldwide hub in Johannesburg have been eerily quiet for the previous six months.  

But Cohen thinks that whereas the border closures might have had some impact, it is the pandemic safety measures equivalent to social distancing, hand sanitisation and masks that have made the actual distinction.

“It’s really a natural experiment that shows us if we all wore masks and if we all do these measures, we might, in fact, be able to reduce the flu dramatically,” she mentioned.

School kids are additionally the primary drivers of flu transmission, and Cohen believes that the closure of faculties may have a larger impression on stopping the flu than on the unfold of COVID–19, which she mentioned might function a cautionary story for colleges reopening within the Northern Hemisphere. 

“Of course, with school closures, there’s a lot to balance, right? The negative impact on schools, of the education, may not justify closing the schools, for example, to keep down the flu,” she mentioned.  


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Asked what her recommendation to the worldwide north could be, as flu season arrives in locations together with the United States, Cohen cautioned that influenza was an unpredictable virus and South Africa’s expertise would not essentially be replicated elsewhere.

She urged different nations “to prepare as if there is a possibility of a severe flu season,” together with by selling influenza vaccinations, “which is the one specific intervention.” 

But, she mentioned it was additionally nicely price sticking with the anti-COVID measures, together with masks, which “should hopefully reduce reduce flu.”

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