Swine flu outbreak possible in winter

SOUTH Africa has not reported any swine flu cases since the start of the influenza season. But experts are not ruling out the possibility of another H1N1 flu outbreak.

SOUTH Africa has not reported any swine flu cases since the start of the influenza season. But experts are not ruling out the possibility of another H1N1 flu outbreak.

Lucille Blumberg, of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said yesterday: "There are no new cases of H1N1 flu but we would not be surprised if they surface.

"The influenza season in South Africa started this month and will continue until mid-July. So far we have detected the usual strain of flu that we get each year. But, as you know, flu always evolves and the same usual strain may just evolve into swine flu."

H1N1 influenza has killed more than 18138 people around the world since it was first detected in Mexico last year. Most fatal cases in South Africa were of people who had underlying condition such as HIV-Aids and diabetes, and pregnant women.

Blumberg urged high-risk people to take safety precautions during this period.

"Even though flu can attack anybody, in people with underlying conditions it often gets severe. People need to adhere to proper hygiene like washing hands and coughing into tissues. I also advise this group to be vaccinated," she said.

Last September, countries in the Northern Hemisphere were affected by swine flu but not as badly as in the first wave.

"We usually measure ourselves with countries in the north which is why it would not be a surprise if the second wave of swine flu hits us. But this does not mean that people must panic. The fact that there have not been new cases recently is a good sign," Blumberg said.

Pharmacies across the country have stocked up on H1N1 vaccines.

X