Government to intensify response to swine flu

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pretoria - Government is to mount an enhanced national response to build on measures already in place to deal with the H1N1 Influenza pandemic, known as swine flu.

"Cabinet decided to mount an enhanced national response to build on what has already been done so far by the Department (of Health), the Department of Education, NICD, WHO Country Office," said Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi on Thursday, following an ordinary meeting of cabinet.

The minister said letters co-signed by the Ministers of Health, Basic Education and Higher Education will be sent to all school principals and principals of institutions of higher learning. 

"These letters will describe the challenge that we face and advise school principals on what action they need to take. This will further enhance the communiqu, sent out so far," he said.

Letters will also be sent to leaders of all major faith groups. In these letters the minister will call upon religious leaders to share information on the virus with their congregations. Similar letters will also be sent to organised labour and organised business. 

"We recognise the need to also better inform Members of Parliament, NCOP, Provincial Legislatures and Premiers and all councillors in municipalities," the minister said.

To this effect, letters from the minister on their roles will also be sent out in the near future. The same letters will be sent to all the traditional leaders, CDWs and social workers. 

In addition to letters, the minister will be recording advertorials this afternoon that will be flighted on national TV and radio and community radio stations.

"Pamphlets and posters will be distributed in local communities in their local languages, at taxi ranks, shopping malls and other public places etc to further spread information on the virus, the symptoms and what we need to do to ensure mitigation of its impact," Minister Motsoaledi said.

He said currently the country has a functional hotline, which is operated by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, for health workers who may have queries. 

In addition, the Department of Health will have a shared call number operational by Wednesday next week for members of the general public who have queries or concerns, the minister said.

The minister further reminded South Africans of the symptoms of swine flu, adding that it could be divided into mild, moderate and severe. 

Mild symptoms include runny or blocked nose; fever; muscle aches and pain; general feeling of unwellness and cough.

"The overwhelming majority of people have mild symptoms and will not need any specialised medical care and we believe nothing should happen to them. Such symptoms should be treated as is the case other influenza-like symptoms," the minister said.

However, if mild symptoms develop in people with chronic heart or lung disease, pregnant women or people living with HIV and AIDS, these people are advised to seek medical care immediately.

Moderate symptoms include mild symptoms plus shortness of breath; chest pain; persistent vomiting and diarrhoea and signs of dehydration.

Severe symptoms include mild and moderate symptoms plus signs of respiratory distress, blue lips and other parts of the body and severe drowsiness and loss of consciousness.

"Anyone with moderate or severe symptoms should immediately seek medical attention," he said.

Dr Motsoaledi further said the experience worldwide has shown that closures of learning institutions, and other such places such as shopping malls has not been effective in stemming the spread of the disease instead it causes social disruptions. 

"What should rather happen is that any learner or teacher with mild symptoms should stay at home. If there is large scale infection the two relevant departments will meet and decide on what course of action should be embarked upon."

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