BY PRAISEMORE SITHOLE
BULAWAYO has been hit by a wave of influenza, which residents suspect was COVID-19-related following a spike in confirmed cases.
Residents raised concerns over the influenza outbreak on different social media platforms, noting that the symptoms were similar to those exhibited by people suffering from COVID-19, including fever accompanied by severe headaches.
Health authorities in the city urged people not to panic, but confirmed that the city was battling a flu bug.
Bulawayo provincial medical director Maphios Siamuchembu said: “There is no outbreak. This wave of flu came sometime in 2020 with COVID-19 and we are aware of this flu. The same measures of COVID-19 apply to reduce the spread of flu.”
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights co-ordinator Khumbulani Maphosa said there was need for health authorities to demystify the current flu bug.
“The current flu bug has been a cause for concern in Bulawayo especially if you consider that we are currently facing threats of a new COVID-19 variant, Omicron. This is now scaring a lot of people. Many people now think that it is COVID-19 affecting them,” he said.
“The symptoms that people say they are experiencing from this flu are almost related to COVID-19 symptoms. It is now giving people a scare as there is no official communication to explain what is happening by the responsible public health authorities.”
Maphosa said information should be disseminated to assist the public on prevention measures.
“What we can do as an organisation is to urge the responsible authorities to reach out and communicate with the people, and share information with them, especially how they can differentiate the new variant from this flu,” he said.
“Information must be disseminated on what people must do. This is important because we are at a time when schools and churches are open and we have very long bank queues. We really urge government and the responsible authorities to try and urgently communicate with the people.”
Maphosa said communication should be in vernacular languages, instead of only English.
“The communication should not be too technical in the sense that it ends up using too much medical jargon which will not be understood by ordinary citizens. At the same time, we are urging residents to be responsible,” he said.
“We urge family members suffering from this flu to be very careful so that they do not transmit it to others. Any kind of flu can be transmitted from one person to another because we are the vehicle of the flu.”