Ministry advises vigilance on H1N1 influenza
Although so far no cases of “swine flu” have been reported in the country, the ministry of health advises people to be vigilant for symptoms.
An outbreak of Influenza A (H1N1, initially called “swine flu”) has occurred originally in Mexico. Within a short time, additional cases were diagnosed in the USA, Canada and in other 27 countries.
As of May 11, a total of 4694 cases of H1Nl, resulting in 53 deaths (figures referring to early last week), have officially been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from 30 countries. The death toll was the highest in Mexico, with 48 deaths, whereas 3 people died in the USA and 1 in both Canada and Costa Rica.
The WHO and other organization are monitoring the outbreak and have alerted that an influenza pandemic is likely to occur (Influenza Pandemic Alert level 5). It also has declared this situation as a public health emergency of international concern under the new International Heath Regulations.
In the same way, the situation in all affected countries currently being investigated by the WHO and its partners to find out more about the disease, e.g., clinical picture, proportion of severe cases and deaths among those affected, risk factors for developing severe illness, and conditions for transmission such as closeness of contact.
The symptoms of the illness caused by Influenza A are similar to seasonal influenza. Although this new strain of virus was formerly called “Swine flu,” this new subtype was first isolated from humans and only later from pigs in Canada, probably after of transmission from an infected farmer to his pigs.
It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities. Individuals are advised to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water on a regular basis and should seek medical attention if they develop any symptoms of influenza-like illness.
There is no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products.
Although no confirmed cases have been indentified yet in Rwanda or in any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, the ministry of health has initiated preventive measures aimed at preventing and controlling this outbreak in case it should happen in Rwanda.
In addition to an influenza sentinel-surveillance system in 4 hospitals throughout the country where a Rapid Response Team composed of medical doctors, nurses and laboratory technician, efforts are also underway to set up two new influenza surveillance sites so that every province will have one site. The surveillance sentinel sites and all district hospitals have been informed about the outbreak of swine flu in order to intensify surveillance for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.
The ministry is currently also making available information to the public, amongst others by setting up a free hotline for anyone who has questions (numbers 3334 and 3335) and publishing information on the TRAC website (www.tracrwanda.org.rw). It is also in close contact with the WHO and the other EAC countries for updates and technical assistance.
• Swine flu outbreak puts Rwanda on alert