The Ministry of Health (MoH) recently quashed rumours and allegations that about 5 cases of the H1N1 virus (generally referred to as swine flu) had been identified in Botswana.
Batswana were recently faced with the biggest scare of the year when reports came out, alleging that there were five identified cases of ‘swine flu’ in Botswana.
The H1N1 pandemic, which has wrongly been referred to as swine flu after experts misread the symptoms as those belonging to the latter, is yet to be identified in Botswana, this according to the country’s top health organization, the MoH.
The confusion surrounding the identity of the pandemic itself and its root cause started when the World Health Organization (WHO) made an announcement that the pandemic that broke out in 2009 was not swine flu as people and other scientists had already alleged.
WHO had found no evidence to prove that the disease was being transmitted from infected live pigs to humans, and had thus had to rule out the identity of the disease as swine flu.
For some countries like Egypt, the announcement came at a stage when a number of pigs were erroneously slaughtered for this reason.
DR Shenaaz El-Halabi, the Director of Public Health, said Botswana had not yet had any confirmed cases so far.
So far Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa are the only African countries with confirmed cases.
The MoH was, however, presented with three suspected cases, which were subjected to tests and the MoH had the laboratory specimens sent to South Africa.
“Of the three specimens sent to SA, 2 have just been confirmed as negative and we are awaiting results of the third; all have fully recovered and as we speak currently none is under observation,” said El-Halabi.
That being the case, WHO has also decided to raise the level of the pandemic’s alertness from Phase 5 to Phase 6, which happens to be the highest level of alert.
El-Halabi claims that her ministry will not be caught unaware if the pandemic was ever to hit our borders.
She said that the ministry has built on its existing structures to raise the level of preparedness in the country.
Currently introduced is a Multi-Sectoral Pandemic Influenza National Task Force (MPINT), which is spearheaded by the ministry itself.
“It oversees the operations of four technical working groups working at the National level; every district has a rapid response team which has been trained to respond to local outbreaks of communicable diseases,” said the director.
Major interventions are allegedly taking place under the team.
Interventions, such as surveillance, which includes districts sending in summaries of screened travelers, developing screening tools, and giving orientations at different airlines, amongst others are in place.
Another major intervention is named as case management, where guidelines to properly identify and manage suspected and confirmed cases were developed by the ministry.
“On the other hand, we have been notified that a vaccine is available, and about a million doses have been promised to WHO. It has been said that developing countries will be amongst the first to benefit from the initiative,” said the Director.