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Respiratory diseases warning ahead of winter season

by Staff reporter
08 Apr 2020 at 07:52hrs | Views
HEALTH experts and the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) have warned that fluctuating weather conditions and the approaching winter provide a fertile ground for increased cases of Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Covid-19, just like the common flu, asthma and pneumonia affects the respiratory system causing shortness of breath, coughing and sneezing.

To prevent the spread of Covid-19, Government has imposed a 21-day lockdown as the virus spreads faster in crowded places among other areas. The MSD has since warned the public to stay at home and avoid exposing themselves to situations that can lead to them contracting diseases.

The country has recorded 10 Covid-19 cases with the latest one being a 24-year-old woman from Harare who returned from the United Kingdom two weeks ago.

In a statement, the MSD said the prevailing fluctuating cold and hot weather conditions increase the risk of respiratory ailments such as asthma, hay fever, colds and flu. It encouraged the public to drink a lot of water and to take care of minors and the elderly who are vulnerable. The statement came as health experts warned that the public should comply with lockdown regulations, as failure to do so increases the risk of contracting Covid-19, especially during winter.

Ministry of Health and Child Care epidemiology and disease control director Dr Portia Manangazira said respiratory diseases tend to thrive in cold temperatures just like Covid-19. Dr Manangazira identified some of the respiratory illnesses as hay fever, asthma, sinusitis, tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia, common cold and seasonal flu. "There is a whole spectrum of respiratory diseases not just Covid-19," said Dr Manangazira.

"We know that these kinds of respiratory viruses thrive under conditions of low temperatures. So, sometimes when the temperatures come down people start getting flu that is the seasonal influenza. This is why perhaps we might get fewer cases of Covid-19 because our weather conditions are still more of warm and sunny rather than cold weather."

Dr Manangazira said with the approaching winter, the Government will enhance surveillance and characterisation of Covid-19 cases from the common flu.

"The reason being that the management is different from common cold and seasonal influenza and the Covid-19. They must be differentiated and managed differently," she said.

Dr Manangazira said the vulnerable who include children, the pregnant, the elderly and those with underlying diseases are more at risk of having respiratory diseases. Zimbabwe Medical Association president Dr Francis Chiwora said by following global trends, Covid-19 cases tend to spike during winter, just like most respiratory illnesses. He said it is critical for the country to prevent the spread of Covid-19 before the country gets into winter.

"In terms of respiratory diseases like the common flu in our case they tend to be more during the winter period. This also seems to be the pattern with Covid-19.

"The countries in the northern hemisphere that are seriously affected by Covid-19 at the moment are in winter. The virus does not seem to be more prevalent during warmer conditions and we are hopeful that our winter will not be as cold leading to the spread of the virus," he said.

Dr Chiwora said the country has a fragile health care system; therefore, it could struggle to contain Covid-19. He said some of the countries with the best medical care systems are also failing to contain the virus. Dr Chiwora said the lockdown has a potential to slow the spread of the virus in the country and citizens need to strictly abide by its regulations.

He said apart from maintaining social distancing, drinking a lot of warm liquids such as tea with lemon helps to destroy viruses.

Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said it was high time members of the public adhered to lockdown regulations as the country approaches winter. He said countries that are seriously being affected by the Covid-19 virus are already in winter hence citizens need to take precautionary measures.

"With the coming winter there could be widespread infections from Covid-19 because it's a disease that is caused by low temperatures. "So, we should remain vigilant about Covid-19 as we have observed how it has become a challenge in countries that are in winter," said Dr Ngwenya.

"If the lockdown regulation is not followed during winter, I can foresee a lot of problems caused by this virus killing people. In case this lockdown is extended and another one is imposed people should abide by the rules because that is lifesaving."



Source - chronicle

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