Five more suspected cases of swine flu in Africa: WHO

Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 07 2009 10:45 PM | Updated as of May 08 2009 06:45 AM

ADDIS ABABA - Five new suspect cases are being tested for swine flu in the Seychelles and Benin, the World Health Organisation's Africa director said Thursday.

"The WHO in Africa has so far 12 suspected cases in the region. Five of them are waiting now for results and are currently under investigation," Luis Sambo said at a meeting of the continent's health ministers in Addis Ababa.

"One is from Benin and four from the Seychelles," he said.

Suspect cases were tested in South Africa, Kenya and Benin in recent days but all turned out negative for the potentially deadly A(H1N1) virus that has been confirmed in nearly 2,000 people in 23 countries.

"We've been discussing with pharmaceutical companies to make Tamiflu, the only effective medicine we have, available. For Africa, we have already dispatched thousands of doses to the countries," Sambo said.

"If the epidemic hits Africa, the impact would be more serious than in other parts of the world as the surveillance systems are weaker, and the resources insufficient," the WHO chief said.

"That is why we are now making the assessment of the needs to be sure we can respond to any outbreak," he added.

Sambo nevertheless pointed out that the continent was grappling with graver epidemics -- such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis -- and noted that swine flu's mortality rate was low.

The African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Bience Gawanas said it was critical for the continent to initiate concerted action in the face of an H1N1 pandemic threat.

"Africa needs to take immediate and concrete actions to meet the emerging threat of H1N1 and related epidemics, the cost which will be too huge for individual member states to bear," he said

The WHO says that 1,893 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infections have been reported by 23 countries, including 31 who have died from the disease, all but two of them in Mexico.