Don't panic, says health dept after two Cape Town pupils get swine flu

2015-06-12 18:57
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Cape Town - A Durbanville school has confirmed two pupils have contracted swine flu.

Gene Louw Primary earlier this week issued a letter informing parents of the cases, principal Andre van der Westhuizen told News24.

“The incidents were reported to the Education Department, who advised us to be proactive by sending the circular and advising parents what the symptoms are,” he said.

No other cases have been reported at the school.

Education MEC Debbie Schafer’s spokesperson Jessica Shelver referred all queries to the provincial Health Department.

Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever confirmed to News24 it had received reports of swine flu cases, identified as Influenza A (H1N1) from some private and public hospitals.  

"It is important to note H1N1 is not a notifiable disease and the identification of patients with this strain during the influenza season are treated as we would any other seasonal influenza case," he said.

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) quelled fears of panic over the virus. 

"What is important to note is influenza AH1N1, known as swine flu, is now part of our seasonal strain and it was part of it since 2012", NICD medical epidemiologist Dr Sibongile Walaza said. 

She explained when a strain was seen for the first time, it was referred to as a pandemic as happened in 2009 when the virus shifted from swine to humans. 

"The important thing to stress is it is part of the influenza season. It is not a pandemic anymore and no longer called swine flu." 

She said the institute had been picking up a number of cases involving influenza AH1N1 as it was the predominant strain infecting people.

"We have already been seeing cases since May when our 'flu season started. We are seeing it both in mild cases and patients who are admitted to hospital".

She said people at risk of experiencing a severe types of influenza were pregnant women and people suffering from underlining illnesses including diabetes, asthma, heart conditions.

While this strain infected both adults and children, Walaza said it was easier for children to get infected as they were confined to classrooms. "When they sneeze, they touch each other. That is how it spreads, so it is easy to infect one another."

Walaza added although the 'flu season had started, people should still get vaccinated. “There is still time for people to get themselves vaccinated, because that is the best way to protect yourself against the 'flu."

She also offered advice for those already ill.

Anyone who had contracted flu, should try as far as possible to avoid making contact with other people. "When you cough or sneeze, do it into a tissue or the [crook of your arm]. Wash your hands frequently, take lots of fluids and rest."

Health24 resident doctor Dr Owen Wiese said most people with influenza would experience a sudden onset of fever, headaches, coughs, sore throat and generalised body ache. However, he noted it was not possible to diagnose AH1N1 based only on symptoms.

"If you are concerned you might have had contact with AH1N1, it would be best to have your doctor check you out."

He warned it could result in pneumonia and severe respiratory infections if it progressed and was left untreated.

Read more on:    cape town  |  health

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