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article imageFirst Suspected Cases of Swine Flu Reported in South Africa

By Christopher Szabo     May 1, 2009 in Health
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and South Africa’s National Health Department have confirmed two suspected cases of Swine Flu, both in people who have recently travelled and been to Mexico.
Neither case has been confirmed by laboratory tests, News24 says. The Star newspaper criticized health authorities for not revealing this, although they had the information two days earlier.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said the government’s lack of response was worrying. The party’s health spokesperson and MP Mike Waters said:
South Africa is a long physical distance from the outbreak, but it would take only one passenger arriving on a long-haul flight to let loose an outbreak here.
Waters said representatives from the home affairs; health and transport departments should jointly develop a strategy to handle swine flu in South Africa.
Responding to the criticism, the NICD’s Lucille Blumberg, said it had taken two days to announce the suspected cases because it had been carrying out tests: "One goes through a process of evaluating the case, getting the history and making a decision," said Blumberg.
Meanwhile the IRIN news agency reports that Southern Africa as a region is ill prepared for any viral outbreak. Ed Rybicki, a virologist who teaches at the University of Cape Town said: "I know for a fact we haven't stockpiled. If you don't have a national stockpile, that's it - you're not going to get the drugs in time."
IRIN said antiviral medicines including oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) were used to treat Swine Flu.
Other Southern African countries were even less prepared. Namibia was expected to rely on South African stocks and in Mozambique, Leonardo Antonio Chavane, national deputy directory of health said they had no antiviral drugs. "We use what we have," he said.
Zimbabwe had ”zero preparedness,” according to the report. Angola said it was ”taking measures” but is has a poor track record in dealing with other illnesses. The World Health Organisation would help Swaziland, but some regional countries, like Botswana and Zambia were relatively well prepared.
The small and very poor nation of Malawi seemed best prepared of all. Frank Mwenifumbo, Malawi's deputy minister of agriculture and food security said medical and veterinary teams had been sent to all entry points to prevent the spread of the virus into the country.
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