The past seven days have been characterized by news and constant updates about the current internal outbreak of the influenza A H1N1 virus also commonly known as swine flu.
It is indeed an issue that calls for a lot of attention considering that, ever since this outbreak occurred in Mexico, early this year, 4500 people have lost their lives and more cases continue to be reported across the world.
Just like it has been in all the other affected countries, people are asking endless questions about the disease and with increasing numbers of laboratory confirmed cases, there should be answers.
Rwanda has in the past months stepped up measures to test, treat and quarantine infected people.
However, knowing that the contagious disease is preventable through proper hygiene and quick access to health facilities, once suspected swine flu cases occur – it is vital for individuals to play a significant role in its prevention.
According to health experts, the virus spreads when an individual comes in close contact with an infected person. Specifically, at a distance of one metre or less, this means that anyone could catch swine flu. Behavioural change therefore comes in as a paramount measure.
The Health minister, Dr. Richard Sezibera asserts that at a time like this of an outbreak, the biggest health worker is you. While health workers continue to do what they must, positive behaviour in terms of prevention is vital towards curbing transmission levels.
As long as this pandemic is at hand, there is every reason to stop hand-shaking, hugging and greeting with kisses.
As the adage goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure,’ covering our noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing as well as washing hands should be a daily routine.
Prof Michael Kramer of TRAC plus explains that through sneezing and coughing, one may touch their nose or mouth.
As a result, they will pick the viral droplets and leave them anywhere, say on; door knobs, computer key boards, money or anything else. It is common knowledge that once an individual washes their hands regularly, chances of preventing transmission increase.
While the public may quickly think of death rates as regards infection, this is not the case. As a matter of fact, more people globally die of the common flu than the 0.5 percent deaths that are attributed to swine flu.
Reports show that eating animals cannot infect humans. This also answers the commonly raised questions on whether one can acquire the virus from eating pork. Experts note that pork and all its products are safe as long as they are boiled at high temperatures.
As cases continue to rise, health officials maintain that people with flu should stay at home but once the situation worsens, they must visit health facilities. Since most cases are currently treated at home, health officials have urged the public to limit visits to the infected people.
Besides a steady response team composed of TRAC plus, the National Reference Laboratory, hospitals and health partners at the ministry of health said there are enough doses of Tamiflu to treat over 14000 cases. Should need arise more will be procured.
Very effective measures have also been planned in case of a severe outbreak. Evidence available from the World Health Organization indicates that the overall severity of the disease is moderate which implies that majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make rapid recovery.
Symptoms include, sneezing, coughing, general weakness and vomiting among others. The Ministerial toll free lines of 3334 and 3335 should vigilantly be utilized for further questions.