Swine flu holds no threat for SA

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Midrand - Through government's National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan, the Department of Health is certain that the swine flu will not be a threat for South Africa.

"With the effective coordination and implementation of the pandemic plan, we are of the opinion that the outbreak of influenza AH1N1 should hold no threat for the country,' said the Health Department's Chief Director for Communicable Disease, Dr Frew Benson.

Giving an update on the plan during a media briefing on Thursday, Dr Benson said the department was adequately resourced in terms of medication to deal with the pandemic if it reached South Africa.

He further said three nurses have been sent to OR Tambo International Airport and two screening machines installed to detect swine flu cases.

The machines, which could detect if someone had a high temperature, were put up at the airport on Wednesday to screen large crowds, Dr Benson said.

"We had the machines before, but due to the renovations at the airport, it was not functional. From yesterday, it was put up again."

Three nurses were also sent to the airport on Thursday morning. "If South Africa becomes affected by swine flu, the most likely source would be through the airports."

He said measures had been put in place to deal with a possible outbreak in the country, and that there was no need to panic.

These included flight crews using questionnaires to determine if passengers were showing symptoms of the virus.

The plans had been in place since 2007 and has been implemented in April when the swine flu was reported in Mexico, he said.

The plan further includes outbreak response teams which have been put in place at national, provincial and district levels, including additional plans and guidelines circulated.

The team will further provide technical support to the health facilities in case of an outbreak and monitor and evaluate overall preparedness, investigation and response.

The department has further begun a multi-sectoral team consisting of various departments where they identify roles and responsibilities.

"Any outbreak would involve other departments, just like the swine flu, which also involves the Department of Agriculture,' Dr Benson said, adding that all departments and health sectors should have allocated costs for the pandemic influenza contingency plans.

Meanwhile, 2010 FIFA World Cup LOC General medical Officer Dr Vistor Ramathisele said the FIFA Confederation Cup will continue with or without swine flu in the country.

"We are satisfied with South Africa's response and preparedness to the swine flu, FIFA remains confident that the Confederation Cup will take place," he said, adding that all teams have been advised to take vaccine before coming to the country for the confederations.

The World Health Organisation has confirmed the number of swine flu cases around the world has surpassed 2000.

The agency raised its tally on Thursday to 2 099 cases, from 1 893 late Wednesday. It said there have been 42 deaths in Mexico and two in the United States.

Mexico has 1 112 cases, and the United States has 642. Canada has reported 201 people infected, Spain has 73 and Britain has 28.

Germany has nine cases, Italy, New Zealand and France have five each, Israel has four and South Korea and El Salvador have two apiece.

Austria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Hong Kong, Guatemala, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland have reported a case each.