Just what you wanted to happen in a country in the midst of a world cup. A relative has just died after watching a game.
The country has no reserves of the vaccine for the deadly H1N1 (swine flu), but the soccer spectacle is during a critical window of infection. In 2009, the virus claimed almost 2 000 lives worldwide, and experts are warning that the next outbreak of the flu strain could be worse. The few stocks available will be prioritised for 2010 staff and a limited set of other categories, according to a Department of Health directive.
There are no H1N1 vaccine stocks in private healthcare services in the country.
Dr Frew Benson said the institute had advised all World Cup participating countries of the risks of the virus. "We have advised that those who come to SA should be vaccinated before they arrive.
The current number of flu cases are “low to moderate”, an official at the institute said in a statement. The influenza virus strains identified to date in South Africa are mainly the usual seasonal influenza B strain and influenza A.
The official noted that only one case of the H1N1 viral strain, also known as swine-flu, has been isolated so far. She said this is the strain which caused the flu pandemic in the first half of last year and is the predominant seasonal strain for the northern hemisphere winter. However, it is not very severe, nor does it show resistance to antiviral drugs. The statement said it is still too early to say which strain would be dominant in South Africa.
“While the vast majority of illness due to influenza is uncomplicated, certain at-risk groups have been identified who may develop complications,” she said.
She warned that pregnant women, people with chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes and those who are HIV-infected or have other causes of immune-suppression, as well as people over 65 are especially at risk. People in these groups should get vaccinated as soon as possible, she said since the vaccine takes up to 10 days to become effective.
Swine flu first broke out in Mexico in April 09, and has since spread to over 120 countries, infecting around 80 000 people, of whom at least 337 have died.
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