Health authorities issued a renewed warning to pregnant women on
Monday as the total of confirmed South African swine flu deaths
Nine of the deceased were pregnant women, most of whom had been in
the last third of their pregnancies, the National Institute for
Communicable Diseases said in a statement.
The institute said pregnancy had been identified as a particular
risk factor for severe swine flu.
"It is critical that pandemic influenza A H1N1 infection should
receive particular attention in any pregnant woman with
influenza-like illness (fever, muscle pain and/or dry cough)," it
"In the earlier stages of pregnancy the decision to treat must
be made by the doctor based on the clinical condition of the
"In the second and especially the third trimester of pregnancy,
urgent treatment should be considered with the appropriate
antiviral drugs particularly if there is any sign of pneumonia
(shortness of breath) and prior to any laboratory testing and
results being received."
The institute added however that most swine flu cases in South
Africa remained mild and "self-limiting". Routine H1N1 testing for everyone with flu-like illness was
still not recommended.
Nationwide, there had been 5118 laboratory-confirmed cases of
swine flu. "The likelihood of influenza-like illness being due to the
pandemic influenza strain is very likely at this moment because of
the widespread outbreak which appears to have replaced the seasonal
influenza," it said.
A laboratory test was not necessary to guide treatment.
The institute's statement was echoed by Eastern Cape health
department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo, who appealed to residents of the
province not to demand testing through private doctors.
Not only was this an unnecessary expense -- it would cost about
R800 --but it put huge strain on testing facilities that were
needed for patients at real risk, such as pregnant women.
The province had given instructions that people with flu
symptoms visiting public health facilities should jump the queue,
so they could be treated quickly and sent home to rest for the
recommended seven days.
He said an unfortunate consequence of the province's swine flu
awareness campaign, which included pamphlet distribution at taxi
ranks, was that people visiting clinics were now rattling off a
list of symptoms that they did not necessarily have.
"We call on people to trust us. If there is a crisis, we will be
the first to say so," he said.
There have been two confirmed swine flu deaths in the province.
Kupelo said specimens from two other suspected swine flu deaths
had been sent for analysis. (Reuters Health)