Friday, July 10, 2009

Zimbabwe Seen Vulnerable To Emergence of H1N1 Flu in Southern Africa

08 July 2009

Shortly after the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that Zimbabwe must prepare for the threat of swine flu, reports emerged in Harare this week of the country's first two cases on the heels of occurrences in South Africa.

Reuters reported that state media said a man of Asian origin recently arrived from London had tested positively for the virus and was quarantined in Harare.

The agency quoted Health Minister Henry Madzorera as saying he could only confirm the case of an 18-year-old squash player who was being treated in South Africa.

In its latest monthly report, OCHA said Zimbabwe has had a respite from its humanitarian emergency as cholera cases have dwindled, but is now at risk from the H1N1 flu.

When the U.N. agency issued the report two cases had just been reported in South Africa. It said South Africa's proximity raises the need for plans to deal with an outbreak.

Responding to the OCHA warning, Health Minister Henry Madzorera said Zimbabwe is on high alert and has plans to deal with any such outbreak, adding that the country has received sophisticated equipment and drugs from the World Health Organization.

But Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said he does not believe Zimbabwe is ready to deal with a major outbreak of H1N1 flu, pointing to the need for effective border controls.

Cholera has claimed more than 4,000 lives in the country since August of last year, though the epidemic has subsided significantly from its peak in February.

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