Colds and flu

Updated 11 July 2014

'I had swine flu'

South Africa's 13th swine flu patient is up and about and doing much better, thanks to quick action from his doctor.

South Africa's 13th swine flu patient is up and about and doing much better, thanks to quick action from his doctor.

Sulaiman Joseph (26) from Brackenfell contracted swine flu after vacationing in Italy with his wife.

When his plane touched down in Cape Town, Joseph initially just had a sore throat. However, the next day he started to feel feverish.

Very high fever
"I had a very high fever. Then I experienced cold shivers."

His wife, a medical doctor, advised him to get tested for swine flu.

"The doctor took nose and throat swabs, which he sent away for testing. He started me on medication for swine flu immediately," said Joseph.

He was given a course of antiviral medication, Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®), and was advised to take one every morning and night for five days.

His doctor also advised him not to leave home or come into contact with other people.

Tested positive for swine flu
"He started me on the medication and within two days I started feeling better. I was practically better already by the time I got the results, saying that I had tested positive for swine flu."

Joseph suspects that he may have contracted the H1N1 virus while flying home via Turkey. He spent two hours in transit in Istanbul.

He has contacted all 51 members of the tour group he and his wife vacationed with and they are all fine. His wife also tested negative for the virus.

Asked whether his immune system could have been compromised at the time, Joseph replied, "I’ve never been sick in my life. I can’t remember the last time I had a cold."

Joseph feels that his doctors handled the situation very well. "I am happy that I didn't have to go into hospital to be in isolation. I just stayed home, didn't get into contact with any people and it was fine."

WHO: H1N1 is 'unstoppable'
This week the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave drug makers a full go-ahead to manufacture vaccines against the pandemic influenza strain, saying the new H1N1 virus is "unstoppable" and, unlike past pandemics, has "spread internationally with unprecedented speed".

Every country will need to vaccinate citizens against the H1N1 flu virus and must choose who else would get priority after nurses, doctors and technicians, said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO director of the Initiative for Vaccine Research.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa says it's unlikely a vaccine will be available before the last quarter of the year. Nombuso Shabalala, Communications Manager for the NICD, said the vaccine is being prepared, but will still need to be tested for safety and efficacy.

84 cases in SA and counting
The NICD website reports that there are currently 84 laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu. Of these, 32 are linked to a sporting event that took place at the University of Johannesburg last week.

South Africa started recording swine flu cases after a 12-year-old boy, who arrived in the country from the United States on June 13, was found to have the virus.

"The global experience has been that most [swine flu] cases have mild illness. We are still in the early phase of our outbreak and cases to date have been mild," said Shabalala.

There's a stockpile of medication available in the public sector for severe cases, according to Shabalala. She added that mild cases of swine flu don't need specific antiviral medication.

Asked whether measures would be put in place to deal with the influx of people during next year's soccer World Cup, she replied, "We'll have to see how the virus develops over the coming months".

What to look out for:

  • A recent onset of fever (≥38ºC) with sore throat, runny nose/nasal congestion, cough, myalgia and/or gastrointestinal symptoms; and
  • Recent travel or close contact with someone who is a suspected/confirmed case of swine flu in the seven days prior to the onset of symptoms.

The WHO provides the following precautionary advice for individuals who are well:
Maintain a distance of at least 1m from any individual with influenza-like symptoms, and:

  • Refrain from touching your mouth and nose;
  • Perform hand hygiene frequently, by washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based handrub, especially if touching your mouth and nose and surfaces that are potentially contaminated;
  • Reduce as much as possible the time spent in close contact with people who might be ill;
  • Reduce as much as possible the time spent in crowded settings;
  • Improve airflow in your living space by opening your windows as much as possible.

For individuals with influenza-like symptoms:

  • Stay at home if you feel unwell and follow the local public health recommendations;
  • Keep distance from well individuals as much as possible (at least 1m);
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you're coughing or sneezing, with tissues or other suitable materials, to contain respiratory secretions;
  • Dispose of the material immediately after use, or wash it;
  • Clean your hands immediately after contact with respiratory secretions; and
  • Improve airflow in your living space by opening your windows as much as possible.

(Thania Gopal, Health24, July 2009)

Sapa and Reuters Health
World Health Organisation

Read more:
Swine flu pandemic unstoppable
Swine flu causes severe lung damage
Swine flu A-Z


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Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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