More Tamiflu ordered as H1N1 cases increase

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By: 
Gabi Khumalo

Johannesburg - The Department of Health has ordered more of the the anti-viral drug, Tamiflu, to the value of R30 million, from international pharmaceutical companies as the number of people infected by H1N1 Influenza increases in the country.

On Monday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed 20 deaths related to H1N1 in the country, with half of them being pregnant women in their third-trimester of pregnancy and some having other under-lying illnesses such as diabetes and TB.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has since reiterated the need for pregnant women to be put on Tamiflu, even if they have mild symptoms of H1N1.

Dr Motsoaledi recommended the use of anti-virals in order to reduce the risk, when contracting the virus.

"Tamiflu outweighs any risk to unborn babies, if they [pregnant women] have mild symptoms, we encourage them to take Tamiflu to prevent further deaths related to the virus.

"We don't want them to wait and confirm whether they had the flu or not before we give them Tamiflu. Before, it only took 24 hours to get results but now it goes to five to seven days due to the demand for tests at the countries' laboratories," Minister Motsoaledi said.

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 minister said the department has sent out 29 000 letters to schools, including higher institutions, with guidelines on how to control the virus.

"More than 80 percent have been sent out and we are busy making pamphlets in 11 languages to be sent out to the public. We have also written letters to all members of parliament, to all the radio stations, print, electronic media, traditional leaders, traditional healers, labour and business," the minister said.

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 number of operators at the call centre has also been increased to minimise the waiting period as the centre is inundated with the amount of calls from the public.

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

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