Kenya on a swine flu alert

Public Health minister and Dagoretti member of Parliament Beth Mugo

Former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright (L) listens to Kenyan legislator and Dagoretti member of Parliament Beth Mugo during her visit to Toi market, 28 November 2006, within Kenya's largest slum, Kibera in Nairobi''s Dagoretti constituency. Co-chair of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, Allbright visited the slum-market, accompanied by Kenya's acting Minister for Lands, Kivutha Kibwana [R] where traders decried poor business development owing to lack of land ownership.

Public Health and Sanitation minister Beth Mugo said travellers from Mexico, where the virus has killed more than 100 people, and those from Texas, California and New York were being screened as new cases appear in the United States

She said her ministry had also taken other measures like issuing directives to health workers on the symptoms and action to take in the event of suspected swine flu. She also said that the country had adequate drugs to treat confirmed cases.

The minister said several hotlines had been established which people could call for more information on the disease. These include 0722 331 548 or 020 204 0542. People can also e-mail dcdc@health.go.ke  or idsr@health.go.ke

‘Too late’ to contain swine flu-WHO

A deadly swine flu virus first detected in Mexico can no longer be contained, a World Health Organization (WHO) official has said.

WHO Assistant Director General Keiji Fukuda said countries should now focus on mitigating the effects of the virus.

The WHO has raised its alert level from three to four, two steps short of declaring a full pandemic.

 The number of probable deaths from the virus in Mexico has officially risen to 152 though only 20 cases are confirmed.

 The US, Canada, Spain and Britain have confirmed milder versions.

 Level four means the virus is showing a sustained ability to pass from human to human, and is able to cause community-level outbreaks.

 “What this can really be interpreted as is a significant step towards pandemic influenza. But also, it is a phase that says we are not there yet,” Mr Fukuda said.

 “In other words, at this time we think we have taken a step in that direction, but a pandemic is not considered inevitable.”

 He said the virus had become too widespread to make containment a feasible option, and said countries must focus on trying to put measures in place to protect the population.

 The first batches of a swine flu vaccine could be ready in four to six months’ time, but it will take several more months to produce large quantities of it, Mr Fukuda said.

Health experts say the virus comes from the same strain that causes seasonal outbreaks in humans. But they say this newly detected version contains genetic material from versions of flu which usually affect pigs and birds.

Bird Flu in Egypt and Swine Flu in California Raise Guarded Concerns

Egyptian health officials have just reported two deaths from bird flu within days of each other. The dangerous virus variant H5N1 struck down a six-year-old boy and a young woman, bringing the total death toll in Egypt to 25.

While bird flu experts note that Egypt has seen a surge in human cases in recent months, with 16 confirmed since the start of the year, compared to seven cases between January 1 and April 17 last year [Reuters], they also say that the Egyptian people’s level of alarm is out of proportion to the threat.

While the H5N1 virus rarely infects people, the looming fear is that the virus may mutate into a form that can be transmitted easily from person to person, which could spark a deadly pandemic. However, an outbreak of swine flu across the world from Egypt, in Southern California, has reminded people of the hazards of overreacting before all the information is in.

The incident has brought back memories of another swine flu outbreak in 1976 among army recruits at Fort Dix, New Jersey, which taught public health officials a tough lesson. That winter, 13 men got sick and one died of what proved to be swine influenza viruses–viruses that were thought to be similar to the one responsible for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

U.S. officials ordered the manufacture of swine flu virus vaccine and the country proceeded to launch a mass immunization program that saw upwards of 40 million people injected with the vaccine. The feared pandemic never occurred. But the vaccine appeared to trigger a high level of cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a type of paralysis [The Canadian Press], and thousands of vaccine recipients filed injury claims.

 

Crazy comments by Indonesia’s Health minister

Longtime flubies don’t know what to do about Dr. Siti Fadilah Supari, the cardiologist who also serves as Indonesia’s minister of health. She evidently has a whim of iron and a blithe disregard for science

Now an interview with ABC Radio in Australia shows she’s ready to move right along from bird flu to H1N1:AM – Indonesian Minister’s theories dismissed by WHO. Excerpt from the interview transcript:

GEOFF THOMPSON: Indonesia’s Health Minister, is seeking to calm the nation worst afflicted by the H5N1 bird flu virus, by suggesting that the H1N1 swine flu virus may be more of a problem for people of Spanish origin than Indonesians.

(Siti Fadilah Supari speaking) “We hope that H1N1 is not compatible with Indonesians,” she said. “H1N1 may be more compatible with their race, while H5N1 is more compatible with Indonesians,” she wondered aloud.

“Compatible” meaning “inflicting an 80 percent case fatality ratio”? And why haven’t her government colleagues, who have enough trouble on their plates, sent this person packing? Can you see a link between this minister and some of our own Kenyan minister? I wonder aloud??

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