Update on H1N1 in the Western Cape: 31 August 2009
The Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic is currently placing major pressure on State health services in the Western Cape and in particular the critical care services within our hospitals. The H1N1 influenza pandemic has particularly impacted on younger people and pregnant women.
Currently there are a number of H1N1 patients requiring intensive care in hospitals and these numbers are expected to increase during the coming months. This situation is unusual and therefor requires a heightened response from the provincial health services. Infectious disease experts have advised that the epidemic still has a course to run and for this reason that the Department has put plans in place to minimise the impact and manage the increasing patient load presenting to public health facilities in the province.
These plans include:
- Tighter measures for infection prevention and control
- Increased isolation measures in health facilities
- Meticulous hand washing to limit the spread of infection
- Limiting of visitors to patients in hospital to one person per patient per hospital visit
- No children will be allowed to visit maternity wards
- Ensuring access for patients in regional and central hospitals from rural referring hospitals
- Prioritizing critical care for pregnant women, young adults and children who are increased risk.
There are many health conditions that lead to an acute respiratory syndrome. It is important to stress that very few people who have H1N1 influenza and even those with an underlying chronic disease will develop an acute respiratory illness, while even fewer with the appropriate treatment with require to be managed in an intensive care unit. However, in the current epidemic it is important that there is a high index of suspicion amongst the public and health professionals for this complication. When persons develop signs and symptoms such as chest pains, shortness of breath, continuous vomitting, feeling very weak, high fever, pale or blue lips or appearing very sleepy (as explained in earlier media releases) such individuals must be assessed by a competent health professional as soon as possible.
The precautionary measures communicated thus far to the public remain the best way to minimise the impact of the H1N1 influenza epidemic. However, all hospitals will now limit visitors in order to protect patients and communities but also our staff members and patients with other ailments which make them particularly vulnerable.
The public is requested to note that under no circumstances will visitors be permitted in the casualty areas of hospitals and that no children will be permitted in the maternity or high care units of state hospitals in the Western Cape until further notice.
The Department of Health would like to thank the community for their co-operation in this regard.
Directorate: Communications for the Western Cape Department of Health
Faiza Steyn: 082 801 6960