Swine flu: Africa spared from A/H1N1?

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African countries are not yet affected by swine flu virus, the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Africa confirmed Thursday that it is getting ready to confront a possible pandemic in the African region.

“No cases of swine flu A/H1N1 have been reported in Africa”, a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) Thursday indicated. The two suspected cases in South Africa are not related to the flu virus. “We have no confirmed cases,” according to Barbara Hogan, the South African Minister of Health, “but we are in a state of high alert,” she said on Thursday. South Africa has been on a national alert since last weekend’s warning from the Mexican medical authorities, which was sounded by the WHO. The Southern African country has substantial reserves of Tamiflu, the recommended medication to fight against the swine flu.

Several African countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana and Gabon have also taken the necessary measures to address the looming pandemic. “We have set up a crisis management team at the regional office in Brazzaville to control the situation and if necessary respond to a possible swine flu epidemic,” said Dr. Luis Sambo, Regional Director for Africa. The WHO’s regional office announced that they had a stockpile of Tamiflu, masks as well as providing technical support to countries in the region to monitor the epidemic.

There is no swine flu in South Africa

The WHO has raised the alert level from 4 to 5 on a scale of 6 in less than a week. At this stage, the health authorities believe that “a (global) pandemic is imminent” and that there is little time to finalize the organization, dissemination and implementation of safety measures”. Stage 5 is characterized “by human to human spread of the virus occurring in at least two countries within a WHO region.

A bulletin issued by WHO on 29 April 2009, identified 148 cases in nine countries (Mexico, United States, Austria, Canada, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Spain and Britain). The United States has confirmed 91 human cases. Deaths have been reported. In Mexico, where the epidemic began, 26 cases were identified and the country has recorded seven deaths.

The mutant swine flu virus, which originates from pigs, is transmitted from human to human through the respiratory route. This factor has encouraged many scientists, including the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), to call for a new name for the flu. Symptoms include: feverish conditions, headaches, bodily pains and are comparable to those of an ordinary seasonal flu. Regular hand washing (with soap and water) is recommended. Medical authorities have urged all and sundry to be attentive to the appearance of symptoms.

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".
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