27 August 2009
South Africa’s Department of Health has ordered more of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, to the value of R30-million, from international pharmaceutical companies as the number of people infected by H1N1 influenza – commonly known as swine flu – increases in the country.
On Monday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed 20 deaths related to H1N1 in the country. Half of these cases involved women in their third trimester of pregnancy, while some were suffering from other under-lying illnesses, such as diabetes and TB.
As of 25 August, there were over 5 000 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza in the country, with the majority being reported in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Most of these cases were in the mild and self-limiting category.
Tamiflu for pregnant women
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has since reiterated the need for pregnant women to be put on Tamiflu, even if they only showed mild symptoms of H1N1.
“Tamiflu outweighs any risk to unborn babies, if they [pregnant women] have mild symptoms; we encourage them to take Tamiflu to prevent further deaths related to the virus,” Motsoaledi said.
“We don’t want [pregnant women] to wait to confirm whether they have the flu or not before we give them Tamiflu,” he said, adding: “Before, it only took 24 hours to get results, but now it goes to five to seven days due to the demand for tests at the country’s laboratories.”
More hotline operators
The department has established a hotline and dedicated e-mail address for public queries on swine flu.
The number of operators at the call centre has also been increased to minimise the waiting period, as the centre is being inundated with calls from the public.
- The hotline number is 0861 364 232 (or 0861 DOH CDC)
- The e-mail address is: H1N1@health.gov.za
Guidelines on H1N1
Motsoaledi said the department has sent out around 29 000 letters to schools, colleges and universities countrywide with guidelines on how to control the virus.
“More than 80% have been sent out, and we are busy making pamphlets in 11 languages to be sent out to the public,” he said. “We have also written letters to all members of Parliament, to all the radio stations, print, electronic media, and to traditional leaders, traditional healers, labour and business.”