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No risk with suspected swine flu case in CT

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A health expert has sought to allay concerns of a breakout of the potentially deadly H1N1 virus, following rumours of a suspected swine flu case in the Athlone area. The concerns come as the city comes to grips with a chilly start to the winter season, almost certain to bring with it an increase in cases of influenza.

The H1N1 strain has seen two major breakouts within the last century, the first coming as the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, which infected around 500 million and led to between 50-100 million deaths.

More recently, a more resistant form of the strain emerged from Mexico in 2009, leading to much public hysteria. The final death toll of the pandemic remains unknown, with the WHO indicating a tally of around 284 500. Alternative reports suggest a substantially higher figure at around 580 000, under the belief that most of those who perished would have had little access to health facilities where they would have been accounted for.

Whilst fears may have been stocked over the alleged case, medical epidemiologist at the National institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), Dr Sibongile Walaza said it was important to note that swine flu in its current form served as one of the three main seasonal strains, meaning that it behaved like any other form of flu and therefore there was little need for concern.

Although the risks would be minimal for the majority, there were however those for whom the strain would be more detrimental.

“What we would like to communicate to South Africans is that because it is flu season, especially those at risk of developing severe disease like pregnant women or those with underlying illnesses like asthma or diabetes, to go for influenza vaccination. This is going to be the important thing in order to prevent severe disease,” she said.

It is also important that if a person is not feeling well they should go and consult their doctor, who would be in a better position to advise them.”

Other tips include practicing cough etiquette when coughing in public, eating well, and other general health practices that would boost ones immune system.

It is estimated that between 3-5 million cases of severe illness, and around 250 000 deaths occur on an annual basis worldwide for infections as simple as the common flu. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)


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