No need to panic over swine flu: Cabinet

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pretoria - Cabinet has urged the South African public not to panic over the Swine flu currently identified in some parts of the world.

It has expressed confidence in the country's ability to handle any cases of the disease, should it be identified in the country.

Although, there are no reported cases of swine flu in South Africa, Government believes it has adequate measures in place to ensure the country's preparedness and response should any cases emerge.

"Our health authorities and all our officials at all ports of entry are ready to handle any cases of the deadly flu," said Government Spokesperson Themba Maseko on Wednesday.

Although no cases of the flu have been reported in South Africa, South Africans should neither panic nor become complacent, he said.

Outbreak Response Teams are operational in all provinces,Training of Provincial Rapid Response Teams on Influenza pandemic preparedness and response have been conducted in all provinces, and heightened clinical and laboratory surveillance are in place to identify any suspected human case(s) of Swine Influenza.

The department of health is also working closely with various stakeholders including the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, the Department of Agriculture and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to keep a close eye on the situation.

On Monday, the WHO reported an outbreak of Swine Influenza A (H1N1) in Mexico. According to Mexico's Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova, the death toll from Swine Flu there has risen to 159 on Tuesday.

Minister Cordova said 2 498 suspected cases of Swine Flu have been reported, with 1 311 of the patients still in the hospital.

There are also reported cases in the United States, Spain and Canada.

The current H1N1 strain of swine flu is a potentially fatal respiratory disease and is believed to have had its origin in people working with pigs in Mexico and the USA.

Swine flu cannot be caused by eating pork products but, like other forms of influenza, is a respiratory illness spread, person to person, by the infected person's viral particles being dispersed during coughing or sneezing. Non-infected people then inhale the virus or become infected by touching surfaces on which the virus has been deposited and then transferring it to the eyes, mouth or nose.

The symptoms are similar to human flu and include a sudden fever with a temperature higher than 38 C, chills, fatigue, coughing, sore throat, headaches, swollen joints etc, although swine flu victims also report vomiting and diarrhoea.