Swine flu cases more than known

WHO's Africa office says it will strategically pre-position Tamiflu and protection equipment (Wikipedia)

South Africa has recorded 75 laboratory confirmed H1N1 influenza cases - more commonly known as swine flu - but the executive director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Prof Barry Schoub, conceded at a Johannesburg media briefing on 13 July that "there are probably many more [cases]".

Dr Frew Benson, of South Africa's National department of Health, said: "The problem in Africa is that the surveillance systems are not as good as in the western world ... there will be more cases," but the vast majority of infections were mild.

So far, all the cases have been detected by private health care services, but most South Africans use the overburdened public health care system for medical treatment.

Gauteng province, the country's economic hub, has recorded 39 infections, most of which occurred at a Johannesburg university squash tournament, but cases of swine flu have been identified in all of the country's nine provinces.

Schoub said the incidence of swine flu was expected to increase with the end of the public school holidays on 20 July, as "all respiratory infections go down during school holidays and go up again when schools start" because children were "reservoirs" for viruses.

A total of 193 confirmed swine flu cases have been recorded in 10 African countries, but as yet there have been no fatalities.

Shifting focus

Benson said in South Africa the focus would shift from "counting cases" to strengthening monitoring and surveillance systems, cluster outbreaks, serious cases requiring hospitalization and high-risk communities.

High-risk communities were similar to those classified as at higher risk of common influenza, such as people managing existing conditions like diabetes, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, HIV/AIDS, those aged 65 years or older, and pregnant women.

Dr Lucille Blumberg, head of epidemiology at the NICD, said there had been "no confirmed community transmissions" as yet in South Africa, and no indication that swine flu would have a more severe impact on people living with HIV/AIDS than other influenzas.

Most of the world's people living with HIV/AIDS are in southern Africa.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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