Flu, cough wave sparks Covid fear

In a number of cases, children have failed to respond to medication previously effective against the three diseases. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week declassified the pandemic, which killed more than 3,600 people in Uganda from 2020 and millions globally, as a global health emergency. But the global health watchdog tasked countries to continue with mitigation measures.

Health experts have linked the current wave of flu and cough in the country to Covid-19, but the Health Ministry said they are finalising their assessment to determine the actual driver.
On social media and in interviews with this publication, several families report loved ones being bedridden for days or losing their voices with the onset of intense cough, flu and fever.

In a number of cases, children have failed to respond to medication previously effective against the three diseases, and some have had to be admitted to hospital and placed on oxygen machines.
The rising cases of these airway diseases, reported in towns and villages alike, dovetail with news from Mulago National Referral Hospital that some two patients had presented with severe Covid illness over the past fortnight.  

Mr Philemon Setyabule, a parent in Kampala, said his child was put on life-support machine when the condition worsened following onset of cough and flu.  
“My son has been ill recently. We thought he would be improving from cough and flu, but after a month of treatment [from a clinic], we resolved to take him to the hospital [because he was not improving],” he said.
Mr Setyabule added: “We underestimated his illness thinking it [was] ordinary flu and cough. When we brought him to the hospital, he was admitted.”

The city dweller said his son was put on a mechanical ventilator (for breathing support).
His experience is not any different from that of Ms Jane Nafula, a journalist with this publication and another resident of Kampala. She said her child has been suffering from cough and flu for two months.
“I have tried all forms of treatment recommended by health workers, but the disease did not go away,” she said.
In a rejoinder, Health Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Ainebyoona said they are “doing analysis” and would provide updates, which they haven’t to-date.

Dr Daniel Tumwine, a paediatrician at Children’s Clinic Naalya in Kampala, told this publication yesterday that the number of children presenting with respiratory symptoms has substantially increased. 
He, however, said some of the parents who get similar symptoms turn out Covid-positive when tested.
The senior clinical officer at Kisugu Health Centre in Kampala, Mr John Omongo, said seven out of every 10 patients that they see daily at the facility present with cough and flu.
“Although we didn’t test everyone, it is likely that Covid-19 could be driving the cases of flu and cough.”

Dealers are reporting an uptake in sales of Covidex – a herbal remedy that the National Drug Authority (NDA) approved as supporting treatment for Covid-19. There were no immediate figures on actual sales.
According to Dr Henry Kyobe, an epidemiologist at the Health ministry and the Covid-19 incident commander, they will update the country tomorrow on the nascent wave of flu and cough infections.
“We are monitoring the situation. We shall communicate after thorough data analysis,” said ministry spokesman Ainebyoona, without offering details.

However, some parents said their children, who had persistent flu and cough, were diagnosed with diseases such as bronchitis.
This indicates that symptoms such as cough and flu may not necessarily be linked to Covid-19 alone.
“I think people have become more active on issues of health and that is a good thing,” Dr Allan Muruta, the commissioner for public health emergencies at the Health Ministry, said in response to the public vigilance.

Mulago National Referral Hospital physician Dr Christine Sekaggya, said they are still getting Covid-19 patients with severe disease.
 “But we are waiting for [reports for] further evaluation. We still get a few patients and they come here with severe symptoms. So people have to take care. We have two Covid-19 patients admitted in the last two weeks with severe disease,” she said.