27 October 2010

Zimbabwe: Swine Flu Cases Found in Rural Western Region

Photo: http://www.irinnews.org
A nurse taking care of a patient.

More than 2,000 cases of suspected swine flu have been recorded in Zimbabwe 's remote western district of Tsholotsho, and one person has already died. Health workers fighting the outbreak are meeting unusual resistance - villagers believe the virus is caused by witchcraft.

Médecins Sans Frontières is reported to be on the ground trying to fight Zimbabwe 's latest public health crisis.

Medical workers are using a social distancing strategy to try to contain the H1N1 outbreak. Schoolchildren believed to be infected are sitting their exams in separate classrooms.

In one rural school in Tsholotsho district 95 per cent of the children may have got the H1N1 virus. Children appear to be the ones who are bearing the brunt of this crisis.

Late last week, more than 1,000 children with suspected H1N1 were treated in Matabeleland North province.

So contagious is this virus that the authorities have even taken the decision to call off a local modelling competition. The problem in this rural area is the time it takes to get samples tested, because they have to be sent to South Africa for confirmation.

Teams are encountering resistance from villagers who believe the virus is caused by witchcraft and are reluctant to get treatment.

Health workers fighting the recent measles outbreak also met resistance as some members of a local religious sect do not believe in conventional medicine.

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