H1N1 predominant, but ‘no need to panic’

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iol scitehc june 28 swine flu REUTERS A nurse holds a bottle of the Pandemrix H1N1 flu vaccine and a bottle of the vaccine's adjuvant at a health centre in Burgos.

Cape Town - As the flu season gets into full swing, health authorities have confirmed that the dreaded H1N1, or swine flu, remains predominant in the country.

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed that there were more than 200 patients who tested positive for H1N1 from all nine provinces. One patient was co-infected with another flu strain, H3N2. The Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal registered more cases of Influenza B with seven cases each, while H3N2 was detected in four patients in Gauteng.

Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital has confirmed that it has treated 21 patients with H1N1 virus since winter started. Netcare spokesperson Graeme Swinney said 14 were admitted while seven others received treatment in the emergency department. “Eight of the 14 people who were admitted have since been discharged,” he said.

Swinney said there was no reason to panic: ”Influenza is a normal winter phenomenon and H1N1 is just one of the viral strains. The (patients) mainly present with general flu-like symptoms… and there have been no deaths due to swine flu.”

NICD spokesperson Nombuso Tshabalala said while there had been a spike in the number of swine flu cases, this was “not an outbreak” and the numbers were insignificant compared to 2009.

“There is no reason to panic. We always advise people to practise good hygiene and sneeze in a tissue to minimise chances of spreading flu.”

In a June communiqué NICD stated that the number of specimens submitted for testing through its viral watch programme had increased to 100 a week. In April the number of specimens was 25 a week.

Of more than 1 300 specimens from patients with severe acute respiratory illness, about three percent or 240 cases tested positive for influenza. Out of the total influenza specimens tested, 229 cases were H1N1.

Pregnant women, immune compromised people including those with chronic conditions and lung problems were at a higher risk of flu complications.

People should seek medical attention should they develop any signs such as weakness, severe drowsiness, difficulty breathing, inability to drink fluids or dehydration. - Cape Argus

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