By Sanae Kiunsi
THE Minister of Health and Social Services, Bernard Haufiku has allayed fears of an outbreak of Influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 previously known as ‘Swine flu’ saying that there has only been an increase in the number of cases reported.
Influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 was reclassified as a seasonal influenza virus, after the 2009 pandemic.
This has been circulating globally in the last decade, all year round, however, cases peak during winter season. This means it is expected that there will be people getting ill with flu from this particular strain.
“It is no longer referred to as ‘Swine flu’ but the Influenza A (H1N1) pdm09. The Influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 strain is included in the seasonal flu vaccine, which is available in Namibia,” Haufiku said.
The most recent case of Influenza was reported in June 2018 in Windhoek and since then sixteen laboratories have confirmed cases.
Symptoms that verify the presence of the disease include fever of above 38°Celsius, cough, sore throat, running or stuffy nose, watery or red eyes, headache, fatigue, diarrhoea, body aches, nausea and vomiting.
The disease can be transmitted from one person to another through coughing, sneezing, direct contact with the surfaces contaminated with infected droplets.
High risk groups include; children under the age of 5, elderly people over the age of 65, pregnant women, immune-compromised individuals e.g. living with HIV/AIDS, TB patients, diabetic patients and people with chronic underlying medical conditions.
Preventive measures that can be taken include; vaccination against the disease, covering the mouth whilst coughing or sneezing in your cubitalfossa (triangle of elbow) instead of hands. One should also throw the tissue used in the bin after use. Furthermore, drinking plenty of fluids will help keep one hydrated. Also as a measure, washing hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub is recommended.
The ministry has also advised the public to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth to prevent the germs from spreading when infected.
“Because we are in a flu season, it is expected that there will be more cases of flu and people should also note that this is self-limiting, meaning that the situation will resolve by itself,” Haufiku added.
The ministry further advised that people exhibiting signs and symptoms of the disease should have bed rest, take plenty of fluids and manage fever and cough with over the counter medication.
“Seek medical assistance only if you have severe flu-like illness. If you are in fact infected, limit contact with others to prevent the spread of the infection.
“The country is currently in the process of establishing an influenza sentinel surveillance to enable the country to determine its endemic levels, thresholds and detection of circulating and emerging strains,” Haufiku assured.
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