A nine-year-old Pietermaritzburg girl has died after contracting the H1N1 virus, her school said.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said there was no reason for parents to panic and that H1N1 was not the same as the deadly swine flu that swept through India earlier this year.
Giselle Chetty was a grade 3 pupil at Deccan Road Primary School.
In a letter sent to parents on Monday, the school said it had consulted a specialist physician for advice following the child’s death.
Listing the symptoms of the virus, the school advised parents to be vigilant and take necessary precautions.
“A learner displaying the symptoms should be kept at home and you are advised to seek medical attention,” stated the letter, which was signed by the principal and school governing body chair.
The school had taken precautionary measures which included sanitising all furniture and toilets and disinfecting the air-conditioning units.
“We have also contacted the department of health and are awaiting their advice, however parents are urged to contact the school should a learner present the above symptoms.”
“This would assist us to take further decisions in the interest and wellbeing of all learners,” the school said.
‘No influenza outbreak’
In June, the NICD said there was no influenza outbreak in the country.
“The 2019 SA influenza season, which started towards the end of April, is ongoing. Transmission of influenza has reached high levels in the viral watch programme. However, the increase in influenza cases is a normal expected increase that takes place in winter.
“To date the majority, 357 of 390, which is 92% of influenza-positive samples for this season, detected by three surveillance programmes, have been identified as influenza A (H3N2),” it said.
‘So-called swine flu’
The institute noted several recent media reports of outbreaks of “so-called swine flu in schools”.
It said: “The term ‘swine flu’ is an incorrect term as this refers to a disease of pigs. This term is sometimes incorrectly used to refer to the influenza A (H1N1 pdm09 influenza sub type) which emerged in 2009.”
“This subtype of influenza is normal seasonal influenza strain and behaves like any other type of influenza,” it said.
School governing body chair advocate Rumen Maistry said he was in a meeting with the department of health on Tuesday.