KZN expands H1N1 education campaign to churches

Monday, September 7, 2009

Durban - As the number of H1N1 flu cases continues to increase, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has taken its swine flu education campaign to churches.

Head of Department, Dr Sibongile Zungu, visited the United Congregational Church of South Africa in the Inanda Newtown B on Sunday to explain to the congregation how they can prevent contracting the virus.

Zungu said civil society organizations, families, individuals and traditional leaders all have essential roles to play in mitigating the effects of the outbreak.

"Non-governmental organizations should be involved in preparedness efforts and their expertise and capabilities harnessed to help communities prepare for and respond to an outbreak."

Zungu had explained to the church that people should practice good personal hygiene practices and that the high-risk category included pregnant women, the elderly, people whose immunity has been compromised, those with diabetes, lung and heart diseases.

"We urged them to visit their clinic as soon as they develop influenza symptoms," she said.

According to statistics released by the department last week, there are 891 swine flu cases in the province and two confirmed deaths. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases is yet to confirm whether another four deaths can be attributed to swine flu.

Zungu explained that there were some important differences between patterns of illness reported during the outbreak and those seen during seasonal epidemics of influenza.

"The age groups affected by the outbreak are generally younger. This is true for those most frequently infected, and especially so for those experiencing severe or fatal illness" said Zungu.

To date, the most severe cases and deaths have occurred in adults under the age of 50, with deaths in the elderly comparatively rare.

"This age distribution is in stark contrast with seasonal influenza, where around 90 percent of severe and fatal cases occur in people 65 years of age or older."

Zungu said most of the hundreds of people who had contracted the virus have been treated and are recovering well, including the very first case in the province.