Dept monitoring suspected swine flu case

Thursday, April 30, 2009
By: 
Gabi Khumalo

Pretoria - The Department of Health says it is monitoring the one case of suspected swine flu that has been reported in the country.

It says, as opposed to earlier media reports, there was only one suspected case of the deadly disease that was identified, and not two.

"The patient in Gauteng has been cleared from the symptoms. The only suspect is the one in the Southern Cape. But it has not been confirmed that she has contracted swine flu," departmental spokesperson Fidel Hadebe told BuaNews on Thursday.

Mr Hadebe said both individuals had recently visited Mexico and had developed flu-like symptoms on their return from the country.

The Southern Cape patient was being closely monitored, he said.

This comes as swine flu, a potentially fatal respiratory disease, has been reported in a number of countries, sparking fears of a world-wide pandemic.

Speaking to 702 earlier on Thursday, Health Minister Barbara Hogan urged South Africans not to panic. She said the country had enough stock piled drugs available to deal with the event of an outbreak.

"We have national and provincial response teams, which are already in place," she said, adding that South Africa had experience in dealing with other outbreaks.

Guidelines for diagnosis and treatment have been distributed to clinicians in the private sector and provincial communicable disease co-coordinators, said the minister.

She further explained that temperature detecting devices had been activated at Lanseria airport and would be activated at OR Tambo international and other airports soon. Cabin crew and Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) staff have been given guidelines from the national response team on how to identify a possible case of swine flu.

"We are taking action, we have issued pamphlets for incoming people on what to do and put an advisory for people going away on how to protect themselves," Minister Hogan said.

She further advised South Africans to limit their travel aboard unless it is extremely important.

Meanwhile, Southern African countries have put a response plan in place to deal with possible swine flu cases.

Minister Hogan said Southern African Development Community health ministers met on Thursday and one of the items on the agenda was the supply of anti-viral medicine in the region.

"That was one item in which we have set up a technical task team and through WHO [World Health Organisation], they are accessing additional supplies for the whole region," she said.

Meanwhile, the WHO has raised the infectious disease alert level from phase four to five meaning the world is at imminent risk of a pandemic.

Nine countries have reported 148 cases of swine influenza A/H1N1 infection. The United States government reported 91 laboratory cases and one death. Mexico has reported 26 confirmed human cases of infection including seven deaths.

Other countries reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths include one in Austria, Canada 13, Germany three, Israel two, New Zealand three, Spain four and the United Kingdom five.

Symptoms of swine influenza include fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.