Face masks  are back!…public takes measures to curb flu outbreak

Chronicle Writers

AS cases of the influenza virus continue to surge across Bulawayo and other parts of Zimbabwe, members of the public are taking precautionary measures to protect themselves and others by adopting the use of face masks.

While some organisations have mandated their employees to wear masks, many individuals are choosing to do so voluntarily.

Face masks were mandatory at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic as world governments, including Zimbabwe, battled to contain the respiratory disease that killed more than one million people.

Although the public had expressed concerns that the flu outbreak could signal a resurgence of Covid-19, Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Sleiman Kwidini, has allayed fears and recommended that people with flu-like symptoms wear masks and seek early medical assistance.

Deputy Minister Kwidini assured the public that the flu is responding well to antibiotics and that there is no need to panic.

“We encourage those with flu-like symptoms to mask up in schools and at the workplace. It’s not like an outbreak, we are in winter and we expect such cases. Everything is under control and people should not be worried,” said Deputy Minister Kwidini.

Pedestrians walk along Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street wearing masks to avoid catching cold as temperatures drop in Bulawayo yesterday. Picture Eliah Saushoma

The Deputy Minister also shared key safety tips for the common cold that include avoiding crowded indoor spaces, washing hands often and keeping warm.

“We also encourage people to stay hydrated by taking lots of fluids and taking over-the-counter common cold remedies,” he said.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care has reported over 87 000 influenza cases since January, with symptoms of the highly contagious respiratory disease, including fever, headache, sore throat, and cough.

Medical experts, including prominent Mpilo Central Hospital clinical director, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, warn that as the country approaches the peak of the winter season, flu-like symptoms are projected to intensify.

Other  symptoms of this flu include muscle aches, vomiting and joint aches.

He said it was encouraging to note that the public has adopted the Covid-19 prevention protocols in dealing with the flu.

“It is good to note that people are responding well to this flu and most seem to be masking up willingly,” said Prof Ngwenya.

“This is a great indicator that people remember the Covid-19 campaigns and are still adhering to them.”

School pupils taking precaution measures against flue and colds (Picture Mgcini L Baloyi)

While some residents have been proactive in masking up to prevent transmission, Prof Ngwenya urged individuals to remain cautious and seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms.

Residents  who spoke to the Chronicle said Covid-19 taught them to be proactive and  protect themselves and others.

A vendor operating in the Bulawayo central business district, Ms Sibanesezwe Mhlanga, said she experienced a nasty flu, hence her decision to start wearing a mask.

“I caught the flu recently, and it was a nightmare. Now I wear a mask whenever I’m outdoors as a precaution. I also don’t want to spread it to other people,” said Ms Mhlanga.

She said she got well by steaming and taking flu medications.

Another resident, Ms Keilla Mudenda, said following a spike in flu cases, her workplace has recommended the wearing of face masks by all employees.

“We have been recording an increase in flu in our organisation and as a precautionary measure, we have been encouraged to wear face masks to prevent the spread of the illness,” said Ms Mudenda.

Ms  Loveness Chituko said she was drawing lessons from Covid-19 by wearing a mask to avoid directly coughing and sneezing around people, especially at church and in the workplace.

“I  wear a mask as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of influenza. While I’m not feeling well, I’m also taking responsibility to avoid transmitting it to others when I cough or sneeze,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Service Department has warned of increased respiratory illnesses amid cold conditions and encouraged people to dress warmly and ensure vulnerable members of society are kept warm.

 

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