No need to panic over swine flu, says govt

South Africans and travellers to the Confederations Cup need not panic after the country’s first case of swine flu — or H1N1 influenza — was confirmed, the Health Department said on Friday.

Addressing the media in Tshwane, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said his department was prepared and had measures in place to handle the virus.

”The World Health Organisation [WHO] team has assessed our equipment and they said it was up to international standards.

”We have systems in place to respond appropriately to any suspected or confirmed case of H1N1 influenza,” he said.

Motsoaledi called the media briefing after the first case of swine flu was confirmed in the country on Thursday.

Laboratory test results confirmed that a 12-year-old boy who arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport from the United States on Sunday had the virus.

Attempts were still being made to locate passengers on the plane who might have had contact with the boy.

Professor Maurizio Babeschi of the WHO was equally confident about the country’s preparedness to handle the swine flu virus.

”We are absolutely confident that South Africa can handle it. The way that they are handling it and being transparent about it is very positive,” Babeschi said.

The difficulty, however, was that it was impossible to screen passengers before they boarded planes in their countries because an infected person might not necessarily show symptoms immediately, Babeschi said.

Gauteng minister of health Qedani Mahlangu said: ”We have also bought a lot of masks, especially at the port of entry … so we stand ready that at any given time when we detect this we will be able to react.”

The department declined to release the name of the airline on which the infected boy had travelled into the country. — Sapa

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