Swine flu death toll in SA rises to 6

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pretoria - The official H1N1 Influenza virus, or swine flu, death toll in South Africa now stands at six following the laboratory confirmation by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) of three deaths this weekend.

All three cases belonged in the high-risk category with the two ladies, 27-year-old from the Eastern Cape who also had diabetes and 23-year-old from KwaZulu-Natal who was pregnant, and the third one, a 64-year-old from the Western Cape, who was a diabetic and had hypertension. 

The first swine flu death was a 22-year-old student from the Stellenbosh University, the second was a man from KwaZulu-Natal and the third was a 42-year-old male from the Western Cape.

"The total number of confirmed cases in the country since the first case in June now stands at 2 844," the Department of Health said on Sunday.

According to the department, the majority of confirmed cases in South Africa are mild, and this continues to be a trend internationally.

"Mild symptoms include runny or blocked nose, fever, muscle aches and pain, cough and such cases will not need any specialised medical care as nothing should happen to them," the department said.

People such as pregnant women, people with chronic heart or lung disease, people living with HIV and AIDS and people with diabetes should seek urgent medical attention even if they have mild symptoms.

People who do not belong in this high-risk category should seek urgent medical attention when they develop moderate or severe symptoms, the department said.

Moderate symptoms are defined by shortness of breath, chest pain, persistent vomiting and diarrhoea while severe symptoms are characterised by difficulty breathing (respiratory distress), blue lips (tongue or other parts of the body) and severe drowsiness or loss of consciousness. 

Testing for H1N1, known as swine flu is only done on recommendation by a doctor and it is done on specific cases like in high-risk categories or on those with moderate or severe symptoms.

Members of the public are advised to practice basic hygiene which includes regular washing of hands with water and soap, cough or sneeze into a tissue or sleeve, coughing into one's elbow instead of hands and staying at home when developing mild symptoms unless if one is in a high-risk category as outlined above.