Proactive steps needed as Swine flu numbers increase

By Dr Imran Keeka, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:

Consultation by the DA with several doctors in private Paediatric practice in eThekwini has revealed that Swine flu (H1N1) is particularly prevalent this year, with claims that wide-spread complications of the condition, including pneumonia and respiratory failure, are also surfacing.

While the DA has not been informed of any direct deaths as a result of Swine flu, there are unconfirmed reports that there have been deaths as a result of complications.

The news is particularly worrying given that these private doctors have access to far better resources than those available in state hospitals or clinics, which translate into easier access to testing and ultimately faster treatment for an affected patient.  Clearly, the state facilities will lag behind in providing an equivalent speedy service

The DA is not ringing the alarm just yet – what we are doing though is calling on KZN’s government to take proactive steps.  The danger with Swine flu is that so many of its symptoms are similar to those of normal flu, which can delay correct treatment.

For this reason, we call on KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo and his department to;

  • Ensure that established guidelines from the NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases], in identifying and managing patients with Swine flu, are redistributed
  • Make sure that tests on suspected Swine flu patients are prioritised with results in less than 72 hours, even if it means using private laboratories to do so
  • Ensure that antivirals which have shown to be beneficial in treatment, including the more expensive Zanamivir, are kept in stock at all facilities that will receive established or suspected cases.

It is critical that the people of KZN educate themselves on the symptoms of Swine flu and ensure that they are vaccinated.  The current flu vaccine available in South Africa includes coverage of the H1N1 strain of Swine flu.

In particular we encourage the elderly, pregnant, children, immune-compromised persons, persons with certain blood disorders and those with diabetes and metabolic conditions as well as heart, lung and kidney diseases, to ensure that they are vaccinated

The provincial government is accountable to the people of KZN.  It has a duty to do everything in its power to ensure that that our province does not have to deal with an epidemic.  The only way to do this is to be proactive.