WINDHOEK – The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, has requested citizens to refrain from using the word swine flu but rather refer to it as H1N1 or seasonal influenza virus.
Giving an update on the presence of influenza A H1N1 and hepatitis E, Haufiku said influenza A H1N1 is now a seasonal influenza virus that has been circulating over the past nine years globally, including the southern African region. “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,” he said.
Haufiku explained that influenza-like viruses circulate and change over time, and new strains emerge and have the likelihood of causing outbreaks and pandemics. He said over a period when the strains become part of circulating seasonal flu viruses, they usually do not cause outbreaks and pandemics anymore.
The influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 originally emerged in 2009 as an emerging strain, which caused a pandemic including cases in Namibia.
He said the country is not having an outbreak of influenza A (H1N1) pdm09, adding that Namibia is in the process of establishing an influenza sentinel surveillance to determine endemic levels, thresholds and detections of circulating and emerging strains.
The cases peak during winter season and thus it is expected that there will be people getting ill with flu from this particular strain.
Signs and symptoms include fever above 38 degrees Celsius, cough, a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches and red eyes, amongst others.
Haufiku said the influenza A (H1N1) is transmitted via coughing and sneezing or direct contact with surfaces contaminated with infected droplets. People at risk are children under the age of five, elderly people over 65, pregnant women and immune-compromised individuals such as people living with HIV/Aids, TB patients and diabetics.
About hepatitis E, he said there are 1, 867 cumulative cases countrywide, 147 lab confirmed cases and 17 deaths.
The outbreak was first declared in Windhoek on December 14 2017, and since then sporadic cases have been reported throughout the country. Haufiku stated that Omusati and more recently Erongo have declared outbreaks of hepatitis E.
“The extensive spread of the outbreak to other parts of the country are attributed to cases from the epicentre (Havana and Goreangab) travelling and thereby spreading the infection to at-risk populations,” said Haufiku.