Colds and flu

Updated 04 July 2016

Counting the cost of having the flu in SA

The inconvenience of having the flu is way more than just a sniffling nose, the medical bill you can rack up can be up to R4000.

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The flu season can see you coughing up about R4000 in costs and the South African economy loses more than R2-billion because of colds and flu every year. This is according to 2015 research by the Global Hygiene Council (GHC).

The study of more than 9 000 people across 17 countries, including South Africa, also found that the average person misses 4.5 days of school or work due to an infection and 91% of people reported taking at least some time off work or school due to an infection in 2014.

Read: Why it’s still worth getting the flu vaccine this year in SA

 “The socio-economic implications of cold and flu, such as health complications, lost productivity, school absenteeism, and cost of healthcare can be limited by avoiding the spread of flu and cold,” said GHC member Dr Kgosi Letlape.

Letlape said colds and flu are respiratory infections transmitted by a virus. Although infections happen throughout the year, more people tend to be infected with cold and flu throughout the autumn and winter. According to Letlape, contrary to popular belief, colds and flu are not caused by the weather. The biggest reason the illnesses are more prevalent in winter is because people tend to stick very close to each other because it’s so cold, which means the chance of passing on illness-causing germs is a lot higher.

The influenza season is usually between the last week of April and the first week of July, but according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) this can change year to year.

Read: Debunking myths about flu and the flu vaccine

Nhlanhla Shongwe, a mother of two from Vosloorus, told Health-e News that during winter she spends more than R300 on flu medicine for her children. “I don’t take them to the clinic because our clinics are always short of medicines,” said Shongwe, who added that she grew up believing that flu was caused by cold weather.

Steve Mabona, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Health, said for the 2015/16 year the department procured 1150 units of flu vaccine to the value of R64331. “The burden of flu is usually high during winter, however, public health facilities have enough stock and never run out of vaccines,” said Mabona.

He added that the department procured flu vaccines annually at the beginning of each flu season, which are then given to specific target groups namely – pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions, including people living with HIV and Aids, and pensioners. – Health-e News.

 

Read more: 

Cost of medicine in South Africa set to skyrocket

Hand washing vs expensive flu meds

Could 'man flu' actually be real?

Health-e News is South Africa’s award-winning dedicated health news service producing news and in-depth analysis for the country’s print and television media.

 

Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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