‘Every tissue accounted for’

2009-07-16 00:00

A HOWICK woman who was number 11 on the country’s list of swine flu cases has just come out of 10 days of isolation.

The 66-year-old woman, who did not want her name mentioned, said she contracted the H1N1 virus while visiting her daughter and family in England for three weeks.

However, she only become aware of it a day after she landed in South Africa.

Her daughter in England called her to advise her to get tested because she and her whole family had been diagnosed with the virus.

“I had to wear a mask and live in isolation. Everything I touched had to be sterilised. I had my own toilet, which was sterilised every time after I used it. It was interesting. The department of Health was very good in checking up on me. They made sure I was all alone and wearing the mask. I mean, every tissue had to be accounted for and flushed down the toilet.”

According to the woman, her isolation chambers ended up being her grandson’s bedroom in Johannesburg, because going to hospitals, which are full, is risky.

She said she has no way of knowing how long she had the virus, but believes it couldn’t have been long as her family in England only developed flu symptoms during the last week of her visit.

“The symptoms really are the normal flu symptoms like the aches, the snotty noise and earache. It is passed on through coughing, which is why I had to wear a mask. I had a mild case of secondary pneumonia because the virus goes for the lungs and that is my weakness.”

Her family in Johannesburg were also forced into isolation, but only for two days, as they did not present these symptoms.

While she is glad to finally be free, she joked that the challenge now is trying to relax around people. “I’m doing fine. I got off isolation last Wednesday and have since returned home, but it still feels strange. I have to say to people don’t kiss me, shake my hand instead.”

She said she is just glad she did not pass on the virus to anyone.

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa passed the mark of 100 recorded cases of swine flu on Thursday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said.

This means that, in line with a World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation last week, it will stop the routine testing of suspected cases as it has established that the pandemic has reached South Africa. It now expects a shift from cases detected in people with a history of recent global travel, to community transmission.

“Fortunately, all cases so far had been relatively mild, presenting no differently to the regular winter seasonal influenza, which is in fact more common in the country at present,” the institute said.

“There is therefore little reason to continue with the very resource-intensive practice of testing all suspect cases as, in the great majority of these cases, it offers very little advantage to clinicians managing individual patients.”

They will do laboratory testing for the H1N1 virus, which causes the illness, if it is warranted and will continue to chart the behaviour of the virus and monitor any changes in its characteristics.

At a briefing earlier this week, the institute said there may be an increase in cases next week as public schools return for the new term.

Most cases have been reported through the private health system and there are no clear indications yet how it is affecting the wider community, which relies on public hospitals.

Already some private schools, like St Stithians College in Johannesburg, have reported cases. School staff have consulted the Health Department for advice.

— Sapa.

SYMPTOMS are similar to the common cold or flu and can be treated in the same way, the institute has said.

People with underlying illnesses, like diabetes or HIV/Aids, may not recover as easily and must see a doctor if symptoms persist.

The virus is spread in droplets through speaking, sneezing or coughing. They recommend people stand a metre away from someone showing flu-like symptoms, avoid touching their own nose or mouth, clean hands with soapy water, reduce time spent in crowds and keep living space windows open. — Sapa.

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