Swine flu alert: Can Africa cope with a pandemic?

Reading time 3 min.

The swine flu virus appeared Saturday in Mexico and has already killed nearly 150 people. The spread is fast and dangerous. Only three days after being detected, suspected cases have been discovered in the United States, Canada, Spain, Great Britain, China … On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its alert level to 4 on a scale of 6, which corresponds to a high pandemic risk. For the moment Africa appears not to be affected, but the continent is highly vulnerable, says the UN.

“No region in the world is safe” from the swine flu virus, declared the World Health Organization (WHO) as it raised its alert level to 4 on a scale of 6. This indicates a “significant increase in the risk of a pandemic.” Major tourist destinations in Africa are particularly exposed to this risk. In a statement released Monday, Michele Montas, spokeswoman for Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, said that poor African countries are particularly vulnerable. According to her, after multiple crises that have beset the world in recent times, namely; food, energy, economic and financial … the UN must “ensure that they (African countries that are hardest hit by the seies of crises) are not disproportionately affected by a potential health crisis. The World Bank, development agencies and humanitarian assistance of the United Nations are ready, she says, to make funds available to countries that need to combat the epidemic.

Fever detectors at Moroccan airports

A few African countries have already announced precautionary measures. In Morocco, close to Spain, where the first European case of the disease has been reported, the Ministry of Health has stated that provisions against the introduction of A/H1N1 viruses on its territory have been made. A device already in place since 2005 has been reactivated. An earlier plan to combat an outbreak of the avian flu is still pertinent in the fight against the swine flu, according to the authorities of the Kingdom of Morocco. The main measures concerned, basically, involve the strengthening of health checks at land borders, ports and airports. Fever detecting cameras have also been installed at airports. Epidemiological surveillance, both clinical and biological, of the common flu and acute respiratory infections has also been strengthened.

In Algeria, Ghana and Togo, health authorities on Monday said they were closely observing the development of the disease and have increased health checks. Although the African media has loudly sounded the alarming and rapid spread of the virus around the world as well as the alert given by the World Health Organization (WHO), most African states have remained silent in the face of a looming health catastrophe.

Adhering to the rules of basic hygiene

The disease, which appeared in Mexico April 24 and has already caused an estimated 150 deaths among thousands of cases, is spreading like wild fire the world over. Known or suspected cases have been detected in the United States, Canada, Spain, Australia, Israel, China … The disease, type A flu virus H1N1 is transmitted from person to person via the respiratory route. Last Sunday the WHO described the new virus as subtype A/H1N1 that has never been previously detected in pigs or humans.

The symptoms of the swine influenza are similar to those of ordinary seasonal flus. They are characterized by fevers, headaches, aching muscles… According to the World health organization, the virus responsible for recent human cases of swine influenza responds to oselatmivir molecules (marketed as Tamiflu) and zanamivir (whose trade name is Relenza). To be effective, Tamiflu must be taken no later than 48 hours after the onset of symptoms, indicated the manufacturing laboratory, Roche.

Several other laboratories indicate that the first doses of a vaccine will only be available in 4 months. But this time limit remains to be confirmed in relation to the characteristics of the virus. In the meantime, health professionals strongly recommend that basic hygiene rules (washing of hands, avoiding physical contact …) be strictly adhered to.

According to the WHO, which announced the dangers surrounding the spread of the virus, the AH1N1 flu pandemic can be avoided.

Health file  The lack of education and political will, poverty, out-moded traditional beliefs, to mention but a few, have been widely blamed for causing severe and sometimes unwarranted health catastrophies of genocidal proportions on the African continent. Child killer diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, water borne diseases, HIV/AIDS, among other preventable ailments have killed millions in their wake. As rightly said by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on May 13, 2000 "More people (...) died of Aids in the past year (1999-2000, ndlr) in Africa than in all the wars on the continent".
Support Follow Afrik-News on Google News