Panic as swine flu increases

‘€œThe scare has driven (up) absenteeism. One (reason is that) they don’€™t want to be involved in a communicable disease where they are able to contract it from people they work with. The second is they are deciding not to go work because they want to go and get checked out by their GP to make sure they don’€™t have it (Swine Flu)’€, said Dr John Jutzen, Director of Strategy at Kaelo Consulting.

He added that ‘€œbased on anecdotal evidence from corporate clients, GPs and pathologists ‘€“ the swine flu fear has led to the rise in requests for laboratory tests for the H1N1 virus’€.

‘€Interestingly, concerns about the transmission of swine flu have led to people consulting medical practitioners prematurely. The amount of the sensational media that has been published around swine flu has driven people to consult GPs and healthcare professionals long before they would have if it was ordinary flu ‘€œ, said Dr Jutzen.

Those who have symptoms of flu are advised to seek urgent medical attention and if they indeed have Swine flu, to stay away from work. Employers are also advised to be sensitive.  

‘€œThe ‘€˜stay at home’€™ message is not only to people. It’€™s also to employers. It’€™s in their interest that people with mild symptoms stay at home, because that person with mild symptoms can spread infection to a person that’€™s more at risk, can have a severe illness and can even demise from that illness’€, said Dr Frew Benson, Chief Director for Communicable Diseases at the department of health.    

Meanwhile, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), has urged the public not to panic.

‘€œIt (Swine Flu) is a mild condition. We need to be serious about it. But, I think we should not panic at this time. We may certainly expect an increased number of deaths. I am hoping that the number of deaths, by proportion of the number of cases, will be small’€, said Prof Adrian Puren, Head of Virology at the NICD.  

Government has stressed why the public needs to remain calm.

‘€œAbout 99 percent of the cases that we have seen have been mild cases. This is a disease that’€™s been classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as having moderate severity, which means it’€™s just slightly above seasonal influenza, and to a large extent there need not be any panic. The majority of cases that will suffer (from) it in South Africa, will be mild cases’€, said Dr Benson.

Over 900 people have been diagnosed with Swine flu. So far, only one death has been confirmed. Initial results on the subsequent apparent Swine flu death, were inconclusive.  

‘€œWe had to perform some additional testing. Once the final decision has been reached, the final results will be released by the Department of Health,’€ concluded Prof Puren.


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