Swine flu deaths climb to seven

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pretoria - South Africa has recorded its seventh H1N1 Influenza death.

The latest H1N1 Influenza, or swine flu victim, is a 20-year-old Pretoria woman.

Department of Health spokesperson, Fidel Hadebe told BuaNews on Thursday that the department had received a confirmation of the women's death on Wednesday by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

"According to their report, the patient was admitted at the Pretoria West Hospital on 8 August, because she was not feeling well. She was later discharged.

"Three days later, she developed severe respiratory distress and was admitted at Kalafong Hospital's Intensive Care Unit, where she died," Mr Hadebe told BuaNews.

He further confirmed that there are now more than 3 500 confirmed cases of swine flu in the country.

Meanwhile, government's H1N1 influenza hotline has reported a high volume of traffic from members of the public wishing to get more information about the pandemic. This is evidence of the growing concern among South Africans about the flu.

"More than 300 calls were received in the evening alone," Mr Hadebe said, adding that the volumes had decreased on Thursday.

He urged the public to be patient if their call was not answered immediately as the consultants were dealing with many phone calls. "If they can't go through during the day, they can also try at night because the line will be a 24-hour service, or alternatively send an email," he said.

Mr Hadebe said the most common questions posed to the panel of experts manning the hotline were about the symptoms of the flu, where to go if they suspected they had the virus and what to do to protect themselves against contracting it.

The 24-hour hotline, which was launched on Wednesday, forms part of government's communication efforts about the pandemic.

Concerned members of the public can dial 0861 DOH CDC or 0861 364 232 to speak to a panel of experts.

There is also a dedicated email address that people can use to ask questions and request information on swine flu. This address is H1N1@health.gov.za.

"We urge the public to call with genuine concerns on H1N1. The line is only dedicated for people who want information or ask specific questions related to the H1N1 Influenza, not other diseases," said Mr Hadebe.

He added that the department may have to improve the system if traffic continues to grow.