Swine flu warning for developing countries – guardian.co.uk
The UN and World Health Organisation (WHO) have warned that developing countries are especially at risk if hit by swine flu, with sub-Saharan Africa is seen as particularly vulnerable. (more…)
The UN and World Health Organisation (WHO) have warned that developing countries are especially at risk if hit by swine flu, with sub-Saharan Africa is seen as particularly vulnerable.
South Africa is on “high alert” for an outbreak after reporting the first two suspected cases on the continent. The two female patients had recently returned from Mexico. Neither is seriously ill.
Experts have warned that the lack of adequate medical facilities, surveillance programmes, drugs and personnel would hamper screening, diagnosis and treatment. In densely populated areas, especially slums, the disease could spread quickly. Poor nutrition and existing diseases such as Aids, TB and malaria might also lead to higher mortality rates than normal.
In 2005, the Sars and avian flu scares saw a large effort by the WHO to get countries to prepare plans to deal with pandemics, and stock up on antiviral drugs. But since then South Africa is the only African country to have filed a national contingency plan with the WHO.
South Africa’s government is installing thermal-imaging systems at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport to detect passengers arriving with fevers. The health minister, Barbara Hogan, said the country’s recent experience in containing communicable or infectious diseases such as cholera would help the response. Provincial and national outbreak teams were in place, she said.
Help has been offered to poorer neighbouring countries, such as Namibia and Zimbabwe, where one economist said there was “zero preparedness” to deal with a swine flu pandemic.
Mozambique, which said it does not have Tamiflu stocks, has sent medical teams to its five main ports to screen new arrivals, while Zambia said it had set up an emergency task force to deal with any outbreak. Malawi said health squads had been sent to key border posts. In Angola, which has poor medical facilities, the government said it was “taking measures”.
In East Africa, heath officials from seven regional governments met this week in Ethiopia at a previously scheduled conference to discuss a response to an outbreak. Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia said they were screening inbound passengers at their international airports for signs of illness, especially arrivals from North America.
In Kenya, the main transport hub for the region, the health ministry said it had adequate stocks of Tamiflu and had reactivated a surveillance plan established to check for avian flu. Telephone hotlines have been set up for the public.
Uganda has recommended that citizens avoid travelling to the US, Britain and Spain. The health ministry said it had 11,000 doses of Tamiflu – a tiny amount compared with most developed countries. Ethiopia said it had formed a team of specialist health experts to deal with any outbreak.
Many West African governments have resurrected avian flu taskforces. Mauritania, Senegal, Togo, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, said they were conducting health checks on travellers arriving by air, land sea.
Gabon and Ghana have suspended the import of pork and pork products. In Senegal, which has direct flights to the US, doctors have been told to make daily, rather than weekly, reports of any cluster of patients with flu-like symptoms. The government said it has stocks of Tamiflu.