/ 29 June 2009

Seven confirmed cases of swine flu in SA

Three more people were diagnosed with swine flu in South Africa over the weekend, pushing the country’s number of cases to seven, the Health Department said on Monday.

Spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said the three new cases all had a history of recent international travel, but further details on their most recent destinations were not immediately available.

”We now have seven confirmed cases in total,” said Hadebe.

”Three new cases were confirmed over the weekend.”

The fifth and sixth patient are believed to be displaying mild symptoms and the department was still gathering information on the seventh patient’s condition.

The South African Health Department is part of a World Health Organisation (WHO) task team monitoring the global pandemic.

Hadebe said he would provide further information later, when it became available.

The illness, caused by the H1N1 virus, presents itself with cold- or flu-like symptoms

The third and fourth cases, which were confirmed on Friday, were of patients who had travelled from London and the United States.

Their treatment is being managed at home in accordance with WHO and health department guidelines and people they were in contact with will be consulted.

Among the seven cases, is rugby player Brian Liebenberg, according to Beeld newspaper.

Radebe said it was not department policy to supply names of people being treated, so could not confirm this.

Beeld reported Liebenberg, a member of the French Barbarians team, and four teammates, had fallen ill after a trip to Argentina.

He had mild flu symptoms when he flew to Johannesburg last week and the virus was diagnosed when he went for a test at a Pretoria hospital. The results came back positive for the virus on Thursday.

The first swine flu case in the country was detected in a 12-year-old boy who arrived from the US on June 14.

The department has urged the public not to panic, citing its fast turnaround time to test for the virus.

According to the WHO, most people recover from the virus without hospitalisation.

It appears to be as contagious as normal influenza, and is spread as easily as normal seasonal flu — by exposure to infected droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing, or that contaminates hands or surfaces, the WHO explained.

”To prevent spread, people who are ill should cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, stay home when they are unwell, clean their hands regularly, and keep some distance from healthy people, as much as possible.”

Signs of swine flu include fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea.

Because it is a new virus, our bodies have not built immunity to it yet so the WHO expects there to be more infections than with ”normal” flu.

A person should seek medical care if they experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or if a fever continues more than three days, they advised. — Sapa