YOUR HEALTH Beat flu with a vac­cine

Pro­tect your­self and your fam­ily against flu this win­ter by get­ting the flu vac­cine

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Boi­tumelo Nt­soane

FLU or in­fluenza is a vi­ral ill­ness that oc­curs mainly in the win­ter months. The in­fluenza viruses can in­fect the nose, throat, si­nuses, up­per air­ways and lungs. In healthy chil­dren, young adults and mid­dle aged peo­ple, the dis­ease is mostly mild.

Flu can how­ever be life-threat­en­ing in older peo­ple, ba­bies, tod­dlers and peo­ple of any age who have un­der­ly­ing con­di­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the Univer­sity of Wit­wa­ter­srand, in­fluenza kills between 6 000 and 11 000 South Africans ev­ery year. About half of th­ese deaths are the el­derly and about 30 per­cent are peo­ple liv­ing with HIV.


Vac­cines can pro­tect you and your fam­ily as flu can some­times be life-threat­en­ing. Flu com­pli­ca­tions can be se­ri­ous and in­clude pneu­mo­nia and the wors­en­ing of ex­ist­ing heart prob­lems.

Flu viruses change fre­quently and when they change, the pre­vi­ous vac­cine is no longer ef­fec­tive. Be­cause of this, the con­tent of the vac­cine is changed each year, which means the con­tent of the flu vac­cine is also dif­fer­ent each year.

For full pro­tec­tion, you need to re­ceive a dose of the vac­cine be­fore the flu out­break. It takes your body two weeks to de­velop an­ti­bod­ies against the flu vac­cine.


Dur­ing the flu sea­son, about 14 per­cent of pa­tients are hos­pi­talised for pneu­mo­nia and a quar­ter of pa­tients with flu-like symp­toms test pos­i­tive for flu. The best time to get the flu vac­cine is ide­ally between March and June be­fore the flu sea­son starts and be­fore the virus spreads or as soon as the vac­cine be­comes avail­able (mid-March).

How­ever, if you missed this pe­riod, the vac­cine can still be taken at any time dur­ing the win­ter sea­son as long as you haven’t been in­fected. Stud­ies sup­port the safety of an­nual vac­ci­na­tion in chil­dren and adults.


Any­one wish­ing to re­duce the risk of get­ting flu or spread­ing it to oth­ers should con­sider the vac­cine.

Mostly preg­nant women, peo­ple with chronic ill­nesses like di­a­betes, lung dis­ease and heart dis­ease, HIV in­fected peo­ple and those who suf­fer from tu­ber­cu­lo­sis are at in­creased risk of hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion and death from flu in­fec­tions.

In ad­di­tion, adults and chil­dren, health work­ers, res­i­dents of old-age homes, chronic care and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in­sti­tu­tions in close con­tact with com­pro­mised in­di­vid­u­als are at risk of se­vere flu.


There are sev­eral cir­cum­stances where a per­son should not have the flu vac­ci­na­tion.

Those who can't get the vac­cine in­clude chil­dren younger than six months and those who have had se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tions to a flu vac­ci­na­tion in the past. Peo­ple who have se­vere al­ler­gies to eggs and those who pre­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced the fol­low­ing after the vac­ci­na­tion should not get the vac­cine: Dif­fi­culty breath­ing Drop in blood pres­sure Loss of sen­sa­tion in the feet or any con­di­tion that re­quires hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion

You and your fam­ily can get the vac­cine at the phar­macy, clinic or from your doc­tor.

Boi­tumelo Nt­soane is a qual­i­fied phar­ma­cist and busi­ness­woman. She holds a Bach­e­lor of Phar­macy de­gree from Rhodes Univer­sity, a cer­tifi­cate in Busi­ness Man­age­ment from the Univer­sity of North West, and was part of the Gold­man Sachs-GIBS 10 000 Women Cer­tifi­cate Pro­gramme

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