KZN kicks-off H1N1 Influenza campaign

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pietermaritzburg - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has launched a campaign to educate the province on the H1N1 influenza, known as swine flu.

This follows government's call for an enhanced national response to build on measures already in place to deal with the pandemic.

Department spokesperson Chris Maxon said on Wednesday that department officials had visited taxi ranks and shopping malls in and around Pietermaritzburg to distribute information packs and to speak to people about the pandemic.

"This exercise will be replicated in 10 other districts in the province and in all provinces of the country," Mr Maxon said.

Pietermaritzburg and eThekwini are reported to be the hardest hit in the province by the fast spreading virus.

The full plan will be rolled out in the coming weeks through information sharing session with journalists, community rallies targeting 6 600 public schools, malls, three airports, taxi ranks and public areas.

"The plan will also include print media adverts, public service announcements on radio and as well as press conferences," said Mr Maxon.

Meanwhile, the national Department of Health has established a hotline, where the public can phone in and request more information or ask specific questions related to the H1N1 Influenza.

The hotline's number 0861 DOH CDC or 0861 364-232 and it became operational on Wednesday.

In addition, the department has put in place a dedicated email address for members of the public to ask questions and request information on swine flu. The email address is:

South Africa currently has 3 485 confirmed cases and six deaths from the H1N1 flu. KwaZulu-Natal has more than 296 confirmed cases including one death. Gauteng is the most affected with 1 818 confirmed cases followed by the Western Cape with 810 cases.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), illnesses such as existing cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and cancer are currently considered risk factors.

"Asthma and other forms of respiratory disease have been consistently reported as underlying conditions associated with an augmented risk of severe pandemic disease in several countries," the WHO said in a statement.

According to the WHO, recent reports suggest obesity may be another risk factor for severe H1N1 infection as well as pregnancy in women.