The possibility of the swine flu pandemic striking the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa is giving health officials "nightmares," Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said Monday.
"One of our biggest nightmares is the fact that [the] 2010 [World Cup] is going to be held in June when there is a possibility of another bout of H1N1 (swine flu)," Motsoaledi was quoted by the South African Press Association (SAPA) as saying in Cape Town.
The World Cup takes place from June 11 to July 11, in the middle of the South African winter, when temperatures often fall below freezing at higher altitudes and colds and flu are common.
Over 400,000 foreign spectators are expected to travel to South Africa for the football spectacular, which is being held for the first time on the continent.
"Many people will be together in South Africa... This is going to be a challenge to us," the report quoted Motsoaledi as saying.
The Department of Health is planning a major swine flu vaccination drive of at least 3 million people before the winter.
The department has acquired 1.3 million doses of the vaccine and been given another 3.5 million by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Motsoaledi told parliament.
Vulnerable to get vaccinated
Pregnant women, people such as border officials working at points of entry into the country , young people and people who are involved in sport administration would be prioritized when it came to obtaining the vaccine, the department has said.
Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport also has thermal scanners that detect whether incoming passengers are running a temperature and should be tested for swine flu.
Worldwide, swine flu has claimed at least 15,292 lives since it was first diagnosed in Mexico in 2009, according to the WHO, which added that more than 212 countries and territories have reported cases of infection by February 7.
Africa has been the continent least affected until now, with only 167 deaths from swine flu confirmed, according to the WHO. - (Sapa/dpa, February 2010)