KZN health MEC calls talk of 'H1N1 flu outbreak' irresponsible, dangerous

Ignorantly referring to 'flu outbreaks' without being absolutely sure causes unnecessary panic, says KZN's health MEC. She said the N1H1 virus was now no more than a common seasonal virus that could be treated like any other flu infection.
Ignorantly referring to 'flu outbreaks' without being absolutely sure causes unnecessary panic, says KZN's health MEC. She said the N1H1 virus was now no more than a common seasonal virus that could be treated like any other flu infection.
Image: Alexander Raths/123rf.com

There is no H1N1 outbreak in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said on Wednesday.

Simelane-Zulu was commenting on reports of an "outbreak" following the death of nine-year-old Deccan Road Primary School pupil Giselle Chetty last week.

"After being informed of the sad passing away of the girl, we immediately began an investigation. As part of precautions, and to aid the investigation, we took in the child’s two-year-old sibling, who was also sick, as well as a grandmother, who was potentially predisposed because of her age.

"While awaiting results of the autopsy, we received laboratory results earlier this afternoon confirming that, indeed, there is a positive case of H1N1 from a person in Pietermaritzburg. We wish to reiterate at this point that this does not constitute an 'outbreak', as has been erroneously reported elsewhere," she said.

Simelane-Zulu said the pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus - which appeared for the first time in 2009, causing a global influenza pandemic - was now a seasonal influenza virus that became prevalent in winter and co-circulated with other seasonal viruses.

"It is neither a notifiable nor a reportable disease, and is thus being treated as normal flu.

"As a department, we are calling on all responsible authorities at schools, doctors and  community members to exercise restraint, because by referring to an outbreak without being absolutely sure, we may begin to create unnecessary panic and alarm."

Simelane-Zulu advised 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," she said.

The health department has issued a notice to health facilities across the province to be on the lookout for severe types of influenza and to treat them with urgency.

"If influenza is treated on time and treated correctly, it need not have any devastating results," Simelane-Zulu said.

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