, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 – The government has once again stepped up surveillance for influenza H1N1 after the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday raised the pandemic alert status from phase 5 to 6.
This means that the disease commonly known as swine flu has now spread to all continents.
Public Health Minister Beth Mugo said on Friday that although the disease was of moderate severity at the moment, the government had over 50,000 doses of the drug Tamiflu in stock in case of an outbreak in the country.
“Two weeks ago, the instances had gone down and it was announced at the WHO and so there was a relaxation of surveillance all over,” the Minister said in defence of why the surveillance was minimal previously.
She said there was a ready isolation facility at the Kenyatta National Hospital in case of an outbreak.
The country had also enhanced inspection for the H1N1 influenza at 26 sites and so far no case has been detected in Kenya.
“The total number of samples received and tested for suspected influenza A (H1N1) so far is 21 including samples from other countries in the region,” Mrs Mugo said.
Kenyans can get more information on the disease on the following numbers: (254) 722- 331 548,020-204 0542, 271 8292.
WHO Country Director Dr David Okello said Phase Six was the emergency stage where more cases occurred across the world.
“It’s not killing more people, it’s not more aggressive than before so don’t think because we have elevated the phase to 6 the disease has become more severe, no! It is about geographical spread. We have been expecting the worst, we are lucky it’s not that bad,” said Dr Okello.
The first case of influenza H1N1 virus was reported in late April in Mexico. Weeks later, there were close to 30,000 confirmed cases around the world with 144 deaths.
The African continent has 10 cases all reported in Egypt.
The H1N1 strain is a new type of virus that has not circulated previously in humans. The virus is contagious, spreading easily from one person to another and from country to country.
Young people under the age of 25 years are the main casualties.
According to the WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan, in some of these countries, around two percent of cases had developed severe illness, often with very rapid progression to life-threatening pneumonia.
In a statement posted on the WHO website, she said most cases of severe and fatal infections had been in adults between the ages of 30 and 50 years.
A similar outbreak occurred in 1918 but was more severe than the current epidemic but the WHO warned that this may change hence the need for more vigilance.