Second H1N1 death not confirmed yet

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pretoria - The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) is still in the process of confirming whether the death of a man in KwaZulu-Natal was due to the H1N1 Influenza Virus, also known as swine flu.

"Up to date, there are 700 confirmed cases of swine flu and one death. We are in the process of confirming whether there was another death in KwaZulu-Natal," NICD Deputy Director, Dr Lucille Bloomberg told BuaNews on Wednesday.

On Monday, 22-year-old, Ruan Muller, a student at Stellenbosh became the first death due to swine flu in South Africa.

The Department of Health has re-assured the public that measures are in place to deal with the outbreak. 

"As part of its response, the department is working closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the NICD, Centres for Disease Control, civil society, private hospitals and doctors' associations to manage this global pandemic," the department said.

According to figures released by the WHO on 30 July, the pandemic had spread to 159 countries and territories around the world, with a cumulative number of 146 609 confirmed cases and 1 096 confirmed deaths.

Commenting on the figures, department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said the number of globally reported cases underestimates the real number of cases, given that countries are no longer required to test and report individual mild cases. 

"However, if the statistics are regarded as the status of the pandemic in the world then we can expect about seven deaths per 1000 people who contract the virus," Mr Hadebe said.

He noted that since the first case was confirmed in the country on 18 June, all provinces are affected with more than 600 cases confirmed and have localized spread in Gauteng and Western Cape. 

"What this means is that there is limited person to person spread - no international travel is necessary for the infection to be contracted.

"So far, the vast majority of cases in South Africa have been mild and the unfortunate death of Ruan Muller should not be a cause for panic," he said. 

People with chronic heart or lung diseases, diabetes, HIV and AIDS or pregnant have been urged to seek immediate medical attention as they show symptoms of the flu, especially those aged between 14 and 30.

"Learners, students at universities and other institutions of higher education should be particularly on alert for the development of symptoms and if they develop mild flu-like symptoms they should stay at home and only return when they better. 

"They should seek medical attention should they develop any danger signs such as weakness, severe drowsiness, difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, inability to drink fluids and de-hydration," Mr Hadebe said. 

Doctors who see individuals with flu-like symptoms have also been advised to consider H1N1 as part of the differential diagnosis, even when there is no travel history and treat moderate and severe cases or those at high risk, early with anti-viral medication.

The majority of people who contract flu, including H1N1, will have a mild self-limiting illness, these cases do not need any special treatment, however, where any doubt exists a doctor or health facility should be consulted, said Mr Hadebe.