Zimbabwe is projected to register a decline in influenza and common cold cases this winter season.
This follows revelations by the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s weekly diseases surveillance report, as at 21 June 2020, which recorded a cumulative 100 920 cases and zero deaths from influenza and common cold cases, compared to cumulative 792 447 cases and 12 deaths and 689 514 cases and zero deaths recorded during the same period in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Epidemiology and Disease Control (EDC) Director in the Ministry, Dr Portia Manangazira, attributed the decrease in the number of cases to measures against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic being taken by the Ministry.
“This season may register a decrease in common cold and influenza cases due to the Covid-19 prevention strategies of limited movements and convergence of people in public places, social distancing, the use of face masks as well as protective behaviours of hand washing and sanitizing as well as the cough and sneezing etiquette,” she said.
Dr Manangazira also indicated plans to institute laboratory testing of influenza in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic to ensure a clear distinction between the two that present similar symptoms.
“With the coming of Covid-19, the Ministry intends to conduct testing of all influenza like illness for both the Coronavirus and influenza like strains,” said Dr Manangazira.
Zimbabwe had moved from the seasonal approach to influenza surveillance whereby, as from 1 May to 30 September yearly, cases diagnosed using clinical criteria would be reported on a weekly basis and trends compared, in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Strategy.
With the advent of the pandemic influenza AH1N1 of 2010, influenza reporting was extended to throughout the year and not just limited to the cold season.