The Influenza A (H1N1) Virus - Swine Flu | Western Cape Government



The Influenza A (H1N1) Virus - Swine Flu

19 May 2009
The global spread of the dreaded swine flu virus is fast becoming an epidemic of disastrous proportion, with reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) classifying it as a level 6 alert on the worldwide warning system.

At present, no confirmed cases of swine flu in the Western Cape or elsewhere in the country has been reported. The Western Cape Department of Health however, has had four suspected cases so far of which all tested negative.

Latest incident:
A 44 year old female tour guide was admitted to Milnerton Medi Clinic on 18 May 2009 with fever, cough and muscle pain. She had contact with a tour group from a country in Asia. This country however has no community-wide outbreak of Influenza A (H1N1), thus the patient has no travel history to an affected area.

Precautionary measures have been taken. The patient is currently been isolated and received antiviral therapy. Currently her condition is satisfactory. Nasal and throat specimens have been sent to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and will be available two days after receipt of the specimen by the NICD.

A dedicated Joint Operations team has been structured as part of the Departments preparedness plan. The team consists of various stakeholders including the Department of Health officials and clinical specialists in Communicable Disease, the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), Port Health, City of Cape Town, virologists, health specialist, private sector health companies and a dedicated communications team. This team meets weekly and is regularly kept abreast of the current situation in the province.

Though the spread of a pandemic is gripping fear on the world economy and its health state, the South African government has implemented a detailed plan, in line with the recommendations of the WHO to protect its citizens from any such instances. As yet, the WHO has received 2 371 official reports of novel influenza A/H1N1 infections globally; of which Mexico has the most confirmed cases.

With its epi-center being Mexico, most cases of swine flu has been reported there with 1 112 laboratory-confirmed cases including 42 deaths. The swine flu virus is a respiratory disease caused by one of several swine influenza A viruses. The virus is spread through the air, direct and indirect contact and from pigs which are infected with the virus.

Symptoms of swine flu:
The symptoms are similar to a typical flu as the person contracts a fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, head aches, chills and fatigue. There is no vaccine at this stage; however antiviral drugs are prescription medicines used to fight against the flu.

How can one get infected?
You are more at risk, if you have travelled to countries affected by influenza A H1N1 or have been in contact with someone who has recently traveled internationally to affected countries or is infected with Influenza A H1N1.

Influenza A H1N1 viruses are made up of tiny particles that can be spread through the droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. When you cough or sneeze, these droplets can spread and others will be at risk of breathing them in.

If you cough or sneeze into your hand, germs are easily spread from your hand to any hard surface that you touch and they can live on those surfaces for some time. If other people touch these surfaces and then touch their mouth, nose and eyes, the germs can enter their bodies.

How to prevent one from getting infected?
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the bin after you have used it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you get sick with flu, limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

The Western Cape Department of Health together with its team of stakeholders from the various public and private sectors is dedicated to keep the public informed and to effectively fight the spread of the swine flu.

Issued by the Directorate: Communications for the Western Cape Department of Health.

Mark van der Heever: 073 942 2902

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