WINDHOEK – A 45-year-old man from Rehoboth has died of Influenza A H1N1 on Friday, the Ministry of Health and Social Services has confirmed. The deceased is from the five laboratory-confirmed cases that the ministry reported last week, and yesterday the ministry said it could not comment on the status of the other four cases, where three people were admitted at private hospitals.
Dr Dawid Uirab, the acting Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services yesterday explained that with complications such as pneumonia, flu could kill.
“The man was in the Intensive Care Unit at the Roman Catholic Hospital,” Uirab confirmed.
Meanwhile, the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Petronella Masabane is emphatic that the reported cases of confirmed Influenza A H1N1 cannot be classified as an outbreak.
“There is no swine flu outbreak in Namibia but rather an increase in seasonal Influenza A H1N1 cases,” said Masabane.
Previously known as swine flu, Influenza A H1N1 was reclassified as a seasonal influenza virus after the 2009 pandemic, said the permanent secretary.
This has been circulating globally in the last decade, all year round, however, cases peak during the winter season, explained Masabane.
“This means that it is expected that there will be people getting ill with flu from this particular strain,” said Masabane.
People who are most at risk of Influenza A H1N1 include children under five years, elderly people over 65 years, pregnant women, people who are immunocompromised such as those with HIV, tuberculosis, diabetes and chronic underlying medical conditions, according to a statement issued last Thursday.
“But it does not mean you and I cannot get complications,” said Uirab, explaining that even people who are not in the ‘most risk’ category can also get complications.
Influenza A H1N1 is transmitted through coughing and sneezing (air droplets) or direct contact with surfaces contaminated with infected air droplets.
Of the five laboratory confirmed cases that were reported, four of the patients were from Rehoboth and one patient, a six-month-old baby boy is from Windhoek.
Four of the patients were admitted in hospitals. With the one confirmed death, however, the health ministry could not verify by yesterday if the remaining three admitted patients were still in hospital or discharged.
“They were admitted in private hospitals so we will have confirmation later, when they report back to us,” said Dr Lilliane Kahuika who is an epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
Masabane also said that people can protect themselves by getting vaccinated against Influenza A H1N1.
“The seasonal influenza vaccination is the best protection available against flu. The Influenza A H1N1 strain is included in the seasonal flu vaccine which is available in Namibia,” Masabane stated.
People should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and wash hands as often as possible with soap, she added.
“If soap and water are not available use an alcohol-based hand rub and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread that way,” Masabane advised.