The Ministry of Health (MoH) on Friday informed the media of the first confirmed case of the A (H1N1) influenza, generally referred to as Swine Flu 2009.
The Director of Public Health, Sheenaz El Halabi, said that the MoH received the results from the laboratory in South Africa this morning.
“We sent the specimen on the seventh of this month for testing and it was today, this morning, that we received the laboratory confirmation,” she said.
She said that the individual is a 49-year-old Motswana male who is being treated accordingly.
“Right now, contact tracing is ongoing; the individual is on Tamiflu and in isolation.” She, however, declined to reveal the quarantine area in Gaborone for the protection of the individual.
El Halabi said that the individual’s contacts could have a self-limiting infection, meaning that they could not require heavy treatment like Tamiflu and can easily heal without knowing that they had the influenza. She clarified that some may, however, not heal because they may be immune compromised.
Establishment as to whether the individual had traveled to elsewhere had not been met and the ministry was said to be working tirelessly to establish such.
El Halabi, however, cautioned that the public should not fear as necessary measures have been put in place to monitor and address the situation. She stressed that the public should avoid handshaking.
“I know it is our culture to shake hands, but we should avoid it at all cost because the person whose hand you shake might have picked their nose earlier or rubbed their eyes, which could lead to transmission.”
She advised that it should be noted that it is “a good health measure”.
The ministry also urged the public to avoid large social gatherings.
The World Health Organization (WHO) representative for Botswana, Eugene Nyarko, said that the Pandemic Influenza 2009 Botswana confirmed case brings the total to 15 affected countries in Africa. He revealed that neighbouring South Africa alone has 47 confirmed cases today.
Notwithstanding this, Nyarko said, “Note that there should be no reason for panic, the system is in place and the individual is receiving treatment.”
He asserted that the WHO will continue to work with MoH against the pandemic.
“There is still no vaccine available commercially, predictions, however, are that it will be available in September but there are no confirmations on that as of yet,” Nyarko said.
He cautioned that the public should not demand Tamiflu and advised that doctor’s discretion should be applied as to who gets Tamiflu to avoid cases where there could be resistance to the drug.
The other development the media were informed of was the plan to use a capacity within the country for testing, instead of using South Africa.
Nyarko said that Botswana was not the only country sending its specimen to South Africa, but that countries in Southern Africa send their specimen to either South Africa or Madagascar for testing. He reiterated that there was still need for Botswana to have its own laboratory saying that WHO is working with the ministry to see the development off.
Halabi said that it takes about three days to send and receive the results from South Africa.