4 swine flu cases - 2/7/2009

Updated: Swine flu cases rise to four - From The Times on line

Updated: 8 p.m.

Another two cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Malta, bringing the total to four.

This evening's cases were in the same group of travellers who returned to Malta from Spain last Tuesday.

This morning, Parliamentary Secretary Mario Galea said that doctors were treating two men for H1N1. All four had travelled to Spain with a group of 24. They were staying in Salou. Another 11 members of the group who were showing symptoms tested negative.

The four cases involve four men. They are being treated at home and are not seriously ill. They, the suspected cases and their families, are under voluntary quarantine.

Malta had so far been the only EU country without a Swine Flu case, Mr Galea said.

"It was a matter of when, not if. There is no need for alarm, we are well prepared, life has to go on as normal," Mr Galea said.

Swine flu has spread across the world. More than 1 million people in the United States may have been infected with the new flu and a global pandemic alert has been activated.

The World Health Organisation has reported 81,700 confirmed cases and 343 deaths worldwide. However, the victims have often been found to have had underlying health problems.

Swine flu has shown itself to be responsive to both Tamiflu and Relenza, which are expected to be the first line of defence before a vaccine against the virus is available.

The Health Department in Malta last month mailed to all households a leaflet explaining elementery prevention measures to stop the spread of the disease. Mr Galea has headed government plans to tackle any possible outbreak including the provision of medicines and the allocation of a special section at Mater Dei Hospital.

The leaflet is part of a 3.5 million spending package that will also go towards antiviral supplies, antibiotics, protective gear for hospital workers and the stockpiling of alcohol-based hand rubs.

The cash injection is over and above the about 4.5 million invested in past years to combat a potential pandemic.

Apart from airborne droplets, influenza can be spread after a person touches a lift button, a phone, keyboard or door knob which had been touched by a sick person, and then touches his nose or mouth.

Frequent hand washing, regular cleaning of surfaces and covering one's mouth when coughing or sneezing can go some way to help stem the spread of disease.

Mr Galea said last month that Malta's antiviral supplies were being increased after the government ordered 10,000 courses of the antiviral Relenza.

When in 2005 there were fears that avian influenza would cause the next pandemic, the government had already bought 100,000 doses of Tamiflu, some doses of Relenza and a substantial amount of oseltamivir powder, which can be turned into capsules or syrup.

On June 11, Mr Galea said a Japanese boy who contracted swine flu after holidaying in Malta left the island before he started showing symptoms.

He said that the six-year-old boy could not have infected anyone while on the island as one needed to have symptoms to be infective. The boy was one of 30 confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu at a school in the western German city of Dusseldorf.

The flu originated in Mexico earlier this year and is completely different from avian influenza, which was until recently thought to cause the next influenza pandemic.

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