The Herald (Harare)

9 July 2009

Zimbabwe: Swine Flu Hits Harare

Harare — TWO cases of the deadly H1N1, swine flu virus have been detected in Harare. The first was in a visiting Asian man who recently arrived in Zimbabwe while the other was an 18-year-old local squash player who also tested positive for the virus after travelling to South Africa for a tournament.

Government has, however, said it was ready to deal with the virus and there was no need for anyone to panic. Swine flu, which has been detected on all six continents, was declared a pandemic on June 11, making it the first global flu epidemic in 41 years.

Public health officials confirmed yesterday that a man of Asian origin who recently arrived in Zimbabwe from London had tested positive for the virus and was currently quarantined at a house in Belvedere.

Sources indicated fellow residents of at the London house where the Asian man stayed also tested positive for swine flu.

"He is being kept in quarantine so that the disease does not spread. He is still in the country.

"He is at a house in Belvedere," said a source in the public health sector.

The Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Henry Madzorera, confirmed the case of the 18-year-old Zimbabwe squash player.

"Yes, there is an 18-year-old athlete playing squash who, among others, was diagnosed with the infection. He is being treated in South Africa," Minister Madzorera said.

The minister said the athlete was part of a group that had tested positive.

He said Government was now investigating whether the athlete contracted the disease here or in South Africa.

On the Asian man he said: "I cannot confirm the other case. We do not have the details yet."

Minister Madzorera promised to issue a comprehensive statement on swine flu today.

He, however, said the country was well prepared to fight the epidemic.

"We have 21 400 courses of drugs to treat swine flu. These are enough to treat 21 400 people. That is what we are holding just in case anything happens," he said.

Minister Madzorera said the World Health Organisation provided the drugs to help fight the disease globally.

He said his ministry was intensifying surveillance at the country's borders, airports, communities and local clinics.

Minister Madzorera said WHO had also provided protective clothing for doctors and nurses.

"In terms of preparedness (to fight the disease), we are prepared," he said.

Infections in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere have climbed to over 30 000 cases.

The last pandemic -- the Hong Kong flu of 1968 -- killed about one million people.

Ordinary flu kills about 250 000 to 500 000 each year.

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