South Africans should not be complacent about swine flu ahead of the Soccer World Cup as it remains a grave worldwide health threat, Netcare Travel Clinics warned on Monday.
Dr Pete Vincent of the Netcare Travel Clinics said in a statement that the dangers of swine flu, or the H1N1 virus, which has already claimed more than 14 700 lives around the world, should not be underestimated.
“The H1N1 virus could well make a big return to South Africa during our next flu season,” he said. “We will have a lot of people visiting the country over the period of the World Cup. Therefore, the conditions for a rapid spread of the virus will be good.”
Vincent said that while the pandemic was now past its prime autumn and winter peak in many parts of the northern hemisphere, it was still evident in many countries.
He said as a result, South Africans should be ready for swine flu during the World Cup this winter.
Vincent’s warning comes as the Department of Health planned an extensive swine flu vaccination drive of about a million people in March prior to the World Cup.
“The more people are vaccinated against the illness, the greater the protection afforded to the community and visitors to our country. Clinics and pharmacies will also stock the vaccine,” Vincent said.
“Those who intend travelling now or later in the year should also consider having the vaccination.
“One does not want to get sick while travelling and especially in places where you may not be able to get adequate medical support,” Vincent said. — Sapa