Durban - KwaZulu-Natal's health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, has called for calm following the death of a nine-year-old girl last week in Pietermaritzburg from the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.
Simelane-Zulu said it had been erroneously reported that there was an "outbreak" of the disease following the death of Giselle Dariele Chetty.
"The influenza A (H1N1) virus, which appeared for the first time in 2009 and caused a global influenza pandemic, is now a seasonal influenza virus that becomes prevalent in winter, and co-circulates with other seasonal viruses. It is neither a notifiable nor a reportable disease, and is thus being treated as a normal flu," she said.
Pregnant women, HIV-infected individuals, children under six with underlying medical conditions and adults with the same could be more vulnerable to the illness than others and would need a flu vaccine before the influenza season started, she said.
She called on schools, doctors and community members to exercise restraint when referring to the disease as an "outbreak" in order to avoid "unnecessary panic and alarm".
"While we continue to investigate this matter, we are advising parents to be on the lookout for signs of severe influenza. Those who display worrying signs such as chest pain or shortness of breath are strongly advised to seek medical attention. If any individuals think they or their children may be suffering from an aggressive type of influenza, they must visit the nearest healthcare facility.
"The best way to prevent the spread of influenza is for those who are sick to stay at home from school or work. Frequent washing of hands and disposing of tissues away from other people is strongly advised, as is bed rest and an increase in fluid intake," said Simelane-Zulu.
African News Agency (ANA)