SWINE FLU : NICD discourages overuse of Tamiflu

By Gabi Khumalo

Pretoria - The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has again discouraged the overuse of testing and the use of Tamiflu by people with symptoms of H1N1 Influenza, known as swine flu.

NICD Deputy Director, Lucille Bloomberg, said most confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza are mild cases, which don't need laboratory tests or intake of Tamiflu, except for severe cases and cases in the high risk group.

"This pandemic is regarded as moderate, not severe and not everyone with H1N1 influenza need the laboratory tests. We can diagnose people without testing and treat them accordingly.

"The majority of people have mild cases of H1N1 and don't need any treatment but a rest at home. Don't do any exercises and take sufficient amount of fluids," Dr Bloomberg said, warning that the excessive use of Tamiflu may encourage resistance.

She said people are expected to recover after a period of seven days.

South Africa has confirmed 3 485 cases of H1N1 with 1 576 new cases being confirmed over the weekend, the number of deaths related to the pandemic is six.

The provinces with most people affected are Gauteng, which is leading with 1 818 cases followed by Western Cape with 810 cases and 359 in KwaZulu-Natal.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says illnesses such as existing cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and cancer are currently considered risk factors.

"Asthma and other forms of respiratory disease have been consistently reported as underlying conditions associated with an augmented risk of severe pandemic disease in several countries," the WHO said in a statement.

According to the WHO, recent reports suggest obesity may be another risk factor for severe H1N1 infection.

Pregnant women also seemed to be at higher risk for more severe disease.

Last week, government decided to mount an enhanced national response to build on measures already in place to deal with the H1N1 Influenza pandemic.

Speaking after an ordinary meeting of cabinet, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said letters co-signed by the Ministers of Health, Basic Education and Higher Education will be sent to all school principals and principals of institutions of higher learning.

"These letters will describe the challenge that we face and advise school principals on what action they need to take. This will further enhance the communiqu, sent out so far," he said.

Letters will also be sent to leaders of all major faith groups. In these letters the minister will call upon religious leaders to share information on the virus with their congregations. Similar letters will also be sent to organised labour and organised business.

"We recognise the need to also better inform Members of Parliament, NCOP, Provincial Legislatures and Premiers and all councillors in municipalities," the minister said.

Pamphlets and posters will also be distributed in local communities in their local languages, at taxi ranks, shopping malls and other public places etc to further spread information on the virus.

A national hotline where people can call for any queries regarding the H1N1 influenza is expected to start operating on Wednesday.

- BuaNews