Medical doctors yesterday warned that a flu bug, which may cause complications if not treated early, has hit the country.
They said the bug has malaria-like symptoms and severely weakens its victims. A doctor, who runs a surgery in Bulawayo and cannot be named for professional reasons, said the flu can be deadly if left untreated.
He added that buying medication over the counter was not the right approach as such tablets and syrups treated the results of a disease not the cause. He said he had attended to more cases of severe flu this cold season compared to previous years.
"This kind of flu is dangerous and may lead to pneumonia and death if people delay seeking proper medical attention. "We are likely to have more cases as we transition into the hot season. We have had cases of people who developed pneumonia due to that and it's a normal pattern, considering that this winter was very cold," he said.
"Flu is caused by a virus, so when one has flu they experience an irritation on the throat going downwards which is called the oropharyngeal area." He said doctors have to manage the viral stage of the bug before administering antibiotics.
"You start giving patients antibiotics when they produce creamish or yellowish, greenish mucus which means there is transformation from viral to bacterial phase. Patients at this phase may be given antibiotics immediately when their immune system is weak and they are prone to pneumonia," he said.
"If you address the cause you apply the use of antibiotics and it's up to the doctor to see an improvement and do further tests. They can do a chest X-ray to check for bronchopneumonia.
"They shouldn't rely on cough mixtures especially now as this strain of flu can cause pneumonia and if they delay they may die."
Ministry of Health and Child Care Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Dr Portia Manangazira said she was yet to meet other officials over the outbreak.
"We have a meeting to discuss this issue tomorrow, so let me get back to you," said Dr Manangazira responding to questions sent to her.
Residents complained that the flu experienced this winter was more severe as most had to take stronger versions of cough syrups.
Ms Rudo Kuboni said her son was vomiting blood after being feverish.
"He complained that he had flu and we got him the normal over-the-counter medication. The situation changed and at one point he vomited blood saying his chest was sore," said Ms Kuboni.
An official from one of the biggest public hospitals in Harare said the flu virus can mutate with each year and become stronger.
"So we have members of the public who are vulnerable, the young, aged and they need to seek healthcare if they have any respiratory compromises. Flu is basically a disease of the nose and the throat so when you see that you are coughing badly you need get tested at the hospital," he said.
A doctor at a public hospital in Bulawayo advised people to keep warm and seek medical attention. the moment they suspect they might be catching flu.
"It's a passing bug but while it lasts, we have to take precautions. This year, flu is presenting with severe symptoms that can cause complications if the patient has other respiratory ailments or medical conditions like diabetes," said the doctor.
The doctors however said a message circulating on social media suggesting there could be an outbreak of the deadly human version of H5N8 bird flu was false.
"If that was the case, there would be a nationwide alert. That strain of bird flu is dangerous and would not be ignored," said a doctor.