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No panic over swine flu | News

Several cases of H1N1, or swine flu, have been reported across KwaZulu-Natal, however health officials have said there is no cause for panic.

In 2009, H1N1 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation as it was a newly emerging influenza virus, spreading rapidly, and people had no pre-existing immunity.

Today, doctors know what they are dealing with and it is considered another strain of influenza.

Last month a Ballito mother rushed her 4-year-old daughter, Lilly, to Alberlito Hospital after the child started shaking and wheezing in the middle of the night.

“She had had a runny nose for a couple of days, but nothing to be concerned about,” Kerry Nieuwoudt said.

On arrival, nurses noted that Lilly’s extremities were blue, her temperature escalated from 37.5 to 40ºC in minutes and her throat and ears were inflamed.

After a series of tests, Lilly was diagnosed with H1N1, and put into an isolation ward.

“The doctors said it’s nothing to be overly concerned about and that it isn’t anything like it was in 2009 as they know what they are dealing with now. It’s just a severe strain of flu that is highly contagious.”

Nieuwoudt said another of Lilly’s school friends also contracted the virus, however, the school took all the necessary precautions, warning parents and sanitising the school.

Last week reports of swine flu cases emerged in eManzimtoti. Louise Lemmer, principal of Amanzimtoti High School, confirmed that a teacher and a pupil had contracted the virus.

“Both seem to be doing much better,” said Lemmer, who added that it was important to keep parents informed about what was happening.

Medical director of Netcare, Dr Anchen Laubscher, said H1N1 had become one of the worldwide seasonal influenza virus strains that occasionally emerge in winter.

“Generally speaking, only patients… at risk because of serious underlying pre-existing conditions are hospitalised for the virus,” she said.

“Doctors follow standard national and international protocols when it comes to treatment of such patients, and the same applies to infection control measures followed by our hospital staff, to ensure the safety of other patients, our staff, as well as visitors.”

She said that, as with other strains of flu, H1N1 was spread via contact with bodily fluids, for example through sneezing and coughing.

“People with chronic pulmonary, cardiac or kidney disease, compromised immune systems, those who have recently had a serious illness or surgery, the elderly and the very young are generally more vulnerable and therefore at risk of contracting influenza,” she warned.

- Published in Independent Newspapers on 1 June 2015.

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