Namibia records 54 seasonal flu cases

Obrein Simasiku

The Ministry of Health and Social Services has appealed to the public not to panic following the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza, with 54 confirmed cases countrywide.

The 54 cases are of a total 190 suspected cases countrywide.

“The cases were reported mainly from Otjozondjupa region (24 out of 37 suspected cases), Khomas Region (24 out of 138 suspected cases), and Kavango East Region (6 out of 15 suspected cases). The cases were reported from July 2022 to date, of which some had been investigated for COVID-19 but tested negative,” said health executive director Ben Nangombe.

Nangombe said the ministry is on high alert as it continues with surveillance activities across the country. “The Ministry underscores that there is no H1N1 or Swine Flu outbreak in Namibia, but rather an increase in seasonal Influenza A H1N1 cases, and this is expected,” he said, while appealing for calm.

“The fact that we are in the flu season, it is expected that there will be more cases of flu and people should also note that this is a self-limiting disease in most cases, meaning it will resolve by itself,” he added.

The ministry is thus urging people exhibiting signs and symptoms of the disease should have bed rest, take plenty of fluids and manage fever and cough with over-the-counter medication, seek medical attention only if you have a severe flu-like illness or if you develop difficulty in breathing. If infected, limit contact with others to prevent the spread of the infection.

Namibia experienced a large-scale H1N1 outbreak in 2009-2010, where over 8000 suspected cases were reported, out of which 102 cases tested positive. One death was reported.

The highest burden of epidemiologically linked cases was experienced in the northern regions of Ohangwena and Omusati, as well as //Kharas Region.

Since then, sporadic upsurge of cases have been reported especially in 2018 to 2019 and of recent between August 2022 to present date, said Nangombe.

“It is worth noting that this seasonal influenza is not a new flu virus, and equally important to note that there is no need for panic. The public is urged to remain calm and comply with the control measures put in place in order to contain and prevent further transmission. There is no need for panic, as this is not a new subtype of the flu strain,” he reiterated.

H1N1 influenza is a viral acute respiratory infection in humans, often characterized by fever, headache myalgia and other flu-like symptoms. According to the ministry, H1N1 is clinically indistinguishable from other viral respiratory infections and can only be laboratory confirmed. Sporadic seasonal transmission has been encountered globally, including in Namibia.

Influenza A H1N1 has been reclassified as a seasonal influenza virus after the 2009 pandemic.

“H1N1 has been circulating globally all year round, however, cases peak from the winter season. Thus, it is not an uncommon occurrence for people to fall ill with flu-like symptoms from this particular strain. With the change in weather that Namibia is currently experiencing, a rise in cases is expected as well,”

Influenza A H1N1 was previously referred to as ‘Swine flu’ during 2009 as it was of zoonotic origin and was transmitted from pigs to humans. However, after the 2009 outbreak, the pandemic transitioned into an epidemic and transmission evolved to the point where H1N1 is now being transmitted from humans to humans, and therefore it is now reclassified as a seasonal flu and not Swine flu.

“The seasonal influenza vaccination is the best protection available against flu. The Influenza A H1N1 strain is included in the seasonal flu vaccine which is available in Namibia. However, the vaccine is only available in the private sector at the moment,” said Nangombe.

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