H1N1 deaths rise

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pretoria - As the number of H1N1 Influenza deaths increase, with 20 lives being lost in the pandemic, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has issued a directive to healthcare workers to put all pregnant women with flu-like symptoms on Tamiflu.

"The directive to all health care workers, in line with our Pandemic Influenza guidelines, is to put pregnant women with flu-like symptoms on Tamiflu treatment," Dr Motsoaledi said.

He added that they should not wait for test results to first confirm whether they had the flu or not.

On Monday, the Department of Health confirmed that there were now 20 H1N1-related deaths in South Africa. The majority of these deaths are pregnant women with some of them having other under-lying illnesses such as diabetes and TB.

Departmental spokesperson, Fidel Radebe, told BuaNews that the department found it "very worrying" that there was an increasing number of pregnant women who were succumbing to the pandemic.

"As government, we would like to emphasise that pregnant women should immediately consult their medical practitioners as soon as they notice flu-like symptoms," Mr Radebe said, adding, however, that women should not panic.

Women who are in their third-trimester of pregnancy have been identified as a particular risk.

There are over 5000 cases of the H1N1 influenza in the country, with the majority being reported in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Most of these cases remain in the mild and self-limiting category.

The first swine flu death was a 22-year-old student from Stellenbosh University; the second was a man from KwaZulu-Natal and the third was a 42-year-old male from the Western Cape.

Testing for H1N1 is only being done on recommendation by a doctor and it is done on specific cases such as high-risk categories or on those with moderate or severe symptoms.

Groups at increased risk of severe or fatal illness include people with underlying medical conditions, most notably chronic lung disease including asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and immuno suppression.

Some preliminary studies suggest that obesity and especially extreme obesity may be a risk factor for more severe disease.

As part of government's communication efforts on the pandemic, the department has established a hotline and dedicated email address, where the public can request more information or ask specific questions related to the H1N1 Influenza.

The hotline number is 0861 DOH CDC or 0861 364-232. The email address is H1N1@health.gov.za.