AfDB Keeps an Eye on Swine Flu

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The AfDB is keeping an eye on swine flu as it sweeps across the globe. In a memo issued by the AfDB Human Resources Director, Daniel Tytiun, to Bank staff, the Bank expressed its concerns about the flu and advised staff on what precautions to they should take.

 “The recent outbreak of Swine flu in Mexico and its spread or detection as far as New Zealand, France, UK, USA, Canada, Australia … is of concern to all of us. Bank staff travel all over the world, and therefore great care and precaution is needed as this is a very contagious disease that can spread easily from human to human. Our regional member countries are also at risk, although as at now no case of the swine flu has been reported in Africa. The outbreak of the flu is even of greater concern for Africa because of the weak institutional capacity of many countries and the poor animal husbandry practices, which could lead to the spread of the disease from pigs to humans,” the memo says.

“Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease caused by type A influenza viruses, and its outbreak is regular in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person to person. The recent outbreak in Mexico has resulted in the death of about 159 people so far. Spain has also reported one case in Almansa in the Castilla-La Mancha region,” it adds.

As a response to the spread of the virus, WHO has raised its alert level to five. Speaking yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, said that “Based on assessment of all available information, and following several expert consultations, I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5. Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world.  On the positive side, the world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history. Preparedness measures undertaken because of the threat from H5N1 avian influenza were an investment, and we are now benefiting from this investment.”

“For the first time in history, we can track the evolution of a pandemic in real-time. I thank countries who are making the results of their investigations publicly available. This helps us understand the disease. I am impressed by the work being done by affected countries as they deal with the current outbreaks,” she added. “Let me remind you. New diseases are, by definition, poorly understood. Influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutation and unpredictable behavior,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, the AfDB has set up a committee to closely monitor the situation. The committee is working under the supervision of the institution’s Corporate Services Vice President, Arunma Oteh, to ensure that appropriate measures and actions are taken when necessary. Speaking about the flu, AfDB’s Medical Officer, Dr. Affissou Adjao, who is a member of the monitoring committee, said that “Though there are no vaccines yet, the AfDB has enough Tamiflu vaccines to cope with a possible viral pandemic. The AfDB has 6,000 doses of Tamiflu and 1,000 masks.” He added that the AfDB’s monitoring committee’s working group on the swine flu met on Tuesday, April 28, 2009, and agreed to publish an information document and practical advice for Bank staff regarding the global swine flu pandemic alert.” The AfDB medical officer added that as part of medical coverage for the 2009 Annual Meetings scheduled to take place in Dakar, Senegal (May 13-14), measures had been taken to take Tamiflu and masks to the event. “For information purposes and out of the need to ensure continuity of AfDB activities, Bank staff and senior management will be regularly updated on measures taken to reduce the risk of an epidemic and avoid situations of panic,” he said.