HEALTH DISMISSES REPORTS OF NEW COVID-19 VARIANT

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  • The National Department of Health expresses concern over old and fake news circulating on social media regarding the COVID-19 Omicron XBB variant, urging the public to remain vigilant and ignore misleading messages.
  • Despite the presence of COVID-19 at relatively low levels, the department reassures the public of immunity developed through vaccines and infections, emphasising that the current strain is less severe and transmissible.
  • While encouraging protective measures like hand hygiene, the department advises high-risk groups to get the flu vaccine to prevent severe health complications as respiratory infections, including RSV and influenza, are expected to increase during the winter season.

The National Department of Health says it has noted with concern old and fake news about the COVID-19 Omicron XBB variant circulating on social media.

These fake posts further advise people to wear face masks because of an allegedly “deadly and not easy-to-detect variant”.

“This is a misleading message which first resurfaced during the peak of the pandemic without a traceable source.

“We urge members of the public to be vigilant and ignore this malicious social media content whose intent is to cause unnecessary panic and confusion, especially as the country is entering influenza season,” the department said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to the department, COVID-19 remains circulating at relatively low levels around the country just like in other parts of the world.

However, it said, there is no need for the public to panic because many people have developed some level of immunity from both the vaccines and infections.

“The current strain or variant in circulation is less severe and less transmissible.”

However, the department said that taking protective measures daily, including non-pharmaceutical interventions such as hand hygiene, will help to prevent the spread of other respiratory infections including influenza.

“The department will keep the public abreast as and when there is a surge in cases of illness caused by any virus of concern or outbreak of any disease.”

On Sunday, the department urged the public to take extra precautionary measures to protect themselves and their loved ones against respiratory infections, which are expected to increase over the winter season.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), which monitors the circulation of respiratory viruses throughout the country, has notified the department that it is currently the peak season of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which some can confuse for COVID-19 due to common symptoms.

RSV causes illness mainly in young children but may also contribute to respiratory disease in older people.

The flu season is expected to start in the next few weeks and the department is advising those at high risk of contracting the virus to get the flu vaccine to prevent severe health complications.

Groups at high risk include the elderly who are over 65 years old, those with underlying illnesses such as heart and lung disease, people living with HIV and tuberculosis, as well as pregnant people. – SAnews.gov.za

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