By: Justicia Shipena
Health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe says the ministry has recorded 54 confirmed cases of Human Influenza virus (HIN1), also known as swine flu, country-wide.
This follows after, on Tuesday, the ministry had said it received reports of an increasing number of HIN1.
HINI influenza is a viral acute respiratory infection in humans, often characterised by fever, headache, myalgia and other flu-like symptoms, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Nangombe said the 24 cases derive from 190 suspected cases and added the cases were mainly reported in Otjozondjupa, Khomas and Kavango East regions.
Otjozondjupa has 24 confirmed cases of swine flu out of 37 suspected cases. “Khomas Region (24 out of 138 suspected cases), and Kavango East Region (6 out of 15 suspected cases),” he said.
He revealed that the cases were reported from July 2022 to date, adding that some cases had been investigated for Covid-19 but tested negative.
Nangombe said the ministry started surveillance activities in the country on the virus.
“The ministry continues with surveillance activities across the country in this regard,” he said in a media statement on Wednesday.
He stated that Namibia experienced a large-scale HIN1 outbreak from 2009 to 2010, with over 8 000 suspected cases reported, out of which 102 cases tested positive.
During that period, Namibia only recorded one death from the virus throughout the country.
The virus is clinically indistinguishable from other viral respiratory infections and can only be laboratory confirmed.
“The highest burden of epidemiologically linked cases was experienced in the northern regions of Ohangwena and Omusati regions, as well as //Kharas Region,” said Nangombe as he reflects on HIN1 outbreaks in Namibia.
The executive director said apart from the 2010 outbreak, a sporadic upsurge of cases was reported from 2018 to 2019 and between August 2022 and the present.
Nangombe also called on the public not to panic.
“There is no need for panic, as this is not a new subtype of the flu
strain. 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,” he stressed.
On 11 May 2022, Germany notified WHO of one laboratory-confirmed human case of infection with a swine-origin influenza A(H1N1) virus in North Rhine-Westphalia, in the west of Germany.
“HINI has been circulating all year globally round; however, cases peak from the winter season. Thus, it is not uncommon 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 also expected,” he explained.
Nangombe said HIN1 is primarily transmitted via coughing and sneezing or direct contact with surfaces contaminated with infected droplets.
“It should be further emphasised that HIN1 flu viruses are not transmitted by food, and one cannot get HIN1 flu from eating cooked pork or pork products.”
He also noted that children under the age of 5, the elderly over 65, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals are at high risk of the virus.
“In rare isolated cases, some people with HIN1 flu have also reported having nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. But the common signs and symptoms include fever above 38 degrees or above, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, watery, red eyes, body aches, headache, unexplained fatigue and diarrhoea,” he added.
He added that people with HIN1 influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious for two days before the onset of symptoms.
“As long as they are symptomatic, and possibly up to 10 days following
the onset of illness,” said Nangombe.
He stated that Namibia is in the flu season, and there will be expected to be more flu cases.
In this vein, he said people should note that the virus is a self-limiting disease.
“Meaning it will resolve by itself. 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.”
He advised the public to seek medical attention only if they have a severe flu-like illness or if they develop difficulty in breathing.
“The ministry underscores that there is no HIN1 or swine flu outbreak in Namibia, but rather an increase in seasonal Influenza A HIN1 cases, which is expected.”
He further urged the public to remain calm and comply with the control measures put in place to contain and prevent further transmission.