For those of you traveling from abroad to South Africa for the Highway Africa conference, here’s a health advisory on the pandemic Influenza A/H1N1 2009, commonly known as swine flu, that we recommend you to read. Swine flu is highly contagious, which means it is very easily and rapidly spread from person to person. But most people infected with the virus experience a mild case from which they can recover fully without medical or anti-viral treatment.

Those people at risk of a serious infection usually have underlying problems or chronic disease conditions. In particular, young children, the elderly and pregnant women are considered to be at increased risk of a more severe infection.

There are no clear features to distinguish swine flu from seasonal flu. Both cause “flu-like symptoms” which are typically: a recent onset of a fever of 38°C or higher; a sore throat; a runny or blocked nose; coughing and sneezing; muscle aches; and/or vomiting and diarrhoea.
In serious cases of flu, the following signs would indicate that urgent medical attention is needed:
• Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Confusion
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
It is no longer recommended that routine testing for swine flu be performed in people who have been in contact with an infected person. Most healthy people who become infected are expected to overcome the illness without any problems or complications. If people are in any doubt, they should contact a medical practitioner. These doctors will decide whether or not administration of oseltamivir (Tamiflu or its generics) is indicated.

Seasonal flu and swine flu viruses are relatively robust and the latter may survive outside of the body for between two and eight hours at room temperature. Infection can result if surfaces contaminated with the virus are touched within that time (e.g. computer keyboards, door knobs or other people’s hands) followed by the person touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. This is why regular hand washing and use of alcohol-based hand rub is highly recommended.
• Avoid contact with ill persons.
• When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve (if
you do not have a tissue). Throw used tissues in a rubbish bin.
• After you cough or sneeze, wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based
hand gel.
• If you think you are ill with flu, avoid close contact with others as much as possible.
Stay at home or in your hotel room. Seek medical care if you are severely ill (such
as having trouble breathing).

Grahamstown general medical practitioners
Drs Marx, Bennett & Partners 120 High Street: +27(46) 636-2063; Emergency no.: +27(82) 573 3678
Colcade practice, Hill Street: +27(46) 636-1732
Dr S Dwyer, Henry Street: +27(46) 622-4846
Dr F Oosthuizen, Pepper Grove Mall: +27(46) 622-6362
Dr SC Pelliser, 12 New Street: +27(46) 622-2970

This information has been primarily derived from the following sources:

Health advisory issued by the Faculty of Pharmacy at Rhodes University
Centres for Disease Control
World Health Organisation