World Health Assembly to discuss flu plan

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pretoria - The development of a Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan is expected to form one of the main discussions during this year's World Health Assembly (WHA).

The assembly, which is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland, is a supreme decision-making body of the World Health Organisation.

Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Molefi Sefularo, who has led a high-level delegation to the event, expressed confidence that all of the issues on this year's agenda have a direct bearing on South Africa and its people.

"The world is facing the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza [swine flu] and it is encouraging that this issue is sitting right at the top of the agenda. It is important that we are there when this matter is discussed," Dr Sefularo said.

He further said during the assembly, South Africa would be able to share the country's experiences in this area with the rest of the world.

Giving an update on South Africa's own National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan last week, Chief Director for Communicable Diseases Dr Frew Benson said the department was certain that swine flu was not a threat to the country.

"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," Dr Benson said.

He further assured that the department was adequately resourced in terms of medication to deal with the pandemic if it reached South Africa.

The department, which had developed the plan in 2007, implemented it in April when the swine flu was first reported in Mexico.

The plan includes the deployment of outbreak response teams at national, provincial and district levels. Teams provide technical support to the health facilities in case of an outbreak and monitor and evaluate overall preparedness, investigation and response.

The department has also stationed three nurses at OR Tambo International Airport to monitor and check passengers landing on international flights. Two screening machines have also been installed to detect swine flu cases.

No confirmed cases of swine flu have been confirmed in South Africa.