‘No need to panic’ about swine flu

The Department of Health has confirmed that cases of swine flu (H1N1) and the adenovirus have been reported at Gatesville Medical Centre and at Montagu Primary School in Portland, Mitchell’s Plain last week.

But the provincial Department of Health urged people not to panic as these are common viruses and are no longer notifiable diseases.

Last week a daily newspaper ran a story about these viruses at the Mitchell’s Plain school and social media messages were making the rounds about the virus. According to reports, Montagu Primary handed out letters to parents notifying them about children displaying symptoms of the virus.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said the department was aware of the situation and acted on the advice of the health department.

She said they are not qualified to provide health advice or confirm cases.

Mark van der Heever, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health, said cases of swine flu had been reported at Gatesville Medical Centre and of the adenovirus at Montagu Primary.

He said if someone should contract either swine flu or adenovirus there was appropriate medication available.

Mr Van der Heever said there was no outbreak of swine flu and adenovirus. “We are currently busy with a vaccination drive and have administered 82 937 doses of flu vaccines to the high risk groups.

“Swine flu and adenovirus have similar symptoms to that of flu and treatment. Our call to school principals and parents is to familiarise themselves with the information provided. There is no need for concern as these viruses are part of the viruses in circulation,” he said.

Mr Van der Heever said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) announced on Wednesday June 14 that the flu season had officially begun. Among the circulating viruses this season are influenza type A viruses, including the H1N1 subtype also known as swine flu.

He said the virus was spread mainly by droplets when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. You can also catch flu by touching a surface or an object that has the flu virus on it, including swine flu.

He said people should practise good hygiene by keeping their hands clean, as well as surfaces. “One may also access the flu vaccine from your health care provider.

“People who are infected should stay at home and try to limit contact with other people, cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, discard used tissues in the bin, and wash hands often with soap or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

“Common symptoms of flu include fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, fatigue, muscle pain and body aches, cold shivers, and hot sweats. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhoea,” he said.

Mr Van der Heever said the swine flu and the adenovirus were common viruses, and were also in circulation in South Africa. “Because these are not notifiable diseases we cannot confirm how many cases there are.

“The department has received telephonic reports of cases and these are currently being followed up through our health facilities in addressing these and other communicable diseases, as appropriate,” he said.

The adenoviruses are a group of viruses known to cause a wide range of illnesses including the common cold, sore throat, bronchitis, fever, diarrhoea, pink eye, skin rashes, bladder infections, gastroenteritis, neurologic disease, and pneumonia.

This is mostly spread via the same routes as influenza viruses, and in addition may be spread through an infected person’s stools.

“The symptoms of adenoviral infection are similar to flu symptoms, and are generally less severe. The prevention and control measures are also the same as those described for influenza above,” he said.

Mr Van der Heerver said every year during the winter months, between May and August, the country experienced an increase in the number of cases of influenza.

He said swine flu behaved just like any other seasonal flu strain and clinical presentation, severity and management were the same as for seasonal flu.

Protection against adenoviruses, swine flu and other respiratory illnesses includes:

Wash your hands often with soap and water.

Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Stay home when you are sick.