Preparedness Gaps Evident As First Flu Cases Diagnosed

Posted on 4 July 2009. Filed under: Lifestyle, Public Health |


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A nurse at work at a Kenyan hospital: Overall pandemic preparedness in East Africa and the Horn of Africa remains “relatively inactive”, according to a UN agency, as the first cases are reported in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda – file photo

2 July 2009 (IRIN) – Although some countries within East Africa and the Horn region have scaled up their influenza A (H1N1) contingency plans, overall pandemic preparedness remains “relatively inactive”, a UN agency has said, as the first cases were reported in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

According to an overview prepared by the pandemic influenza coordination (PIC) unit in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA PIC) in Nairobi, the countries that have updated their contingency plans include Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and the Republic of Congo.

“These countries are considered well prepared in mobilizing both health and non-health sector measures in the event of a pandemic,” OCHA PIC said on 1 July.

OCHA PIC is a member of the regional rapid response team, which is planning technical support missions between July and September to accelerate preparedness and response in countries considered most vulnerable to so-called swine flu, including Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, CAR, Chad and Eritrea.

OCHA PIC said regional partners had expressed concern over the inadequate communication messages and channels used to reach the public with regard to pandemic preparedness and responses.

''Countries that have updated their contingency plans include Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and the Republic of Congo''

“It is recommended that a communication centre be hosted within respective ministry of health structures but supported by technical agencies in disseminating well-packaged messages on H1N1, H1N5 [avian flu] and other trans-boundary diseases,” OCHA PIC said.

Symptoms of A(H1N1) were confirmed in Kenya on 29 June in a British student visiting the country. “[Another] three suspected cases are under investigation,” OCHA PIC said.

In Ethiopia, the Ministry of Health has confirmed a third A(H1N1) case and is investigating four suspected cases.

“Out of 17 suspected individuals, 10 of them were found to be free and returned to their homes,” Ahmed Imano, head of the public relations service at the Ministry of Health, said. “Four of them are still under surveillance.”

In Uganda, the Ministry of Health announced on 2 July that one case of H1N1 had been diagnosed at Entebbe International Airport. The ministry said the 40-year-old had been isolated at a medical facility at the airport.

In Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa have also reported A(H1N1) cases.

Although no deaths have been recorded, more than 10 cases have been confirmed on the continent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ethiopia reported its case on 19 June. The first cases were detected in two teenagers returning from the United States. The third was reported on 29 June, of an air hostess with Ethiopian Airlines.

“All of them came from abroad,” Ahmed said. “It is not necessary at this time to reveal where they came from.”

He added: “We have a good mechanism of tracing [the epidemic.] All flight attendants have received training and are doing a good follow-up.

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