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A (H1N1) Fear Hits Brazilians
Southern Brazil worst hit by the Influenza virus
Ana Maria Brambilla (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2009-08-05 11:42 (KST)   
This article is lightly edited.  <Editor's Note>
Next two weeks, Southern Brazil can be declared an epidemic area on H1N1 Influenza virus. This alert is not official, but we can hear the murmurs from doctors in hospital corridors.

I live on Porto Alegre located in southern Brazil, near Argentina, which one of the Latin American countries more affected by H1N1. By August 2, the fatality count from H1N1 was 19 in my state, Rio Grande do Sul. Our state recorded the second largest number of deaths (the first is Sao Paulo with 37 deaths).

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In a single day, five people died where I live. Even Health Secretary of Rio Grande do Sul recognized that this region is the entry point for A (H1N1) into the rest of the country, because we are so close to Uruguay and Argentina. Despite this danger, the biggest agriculture expo called "Expointer" has been guaranteed by Yeda Crusius, governor of Rio Grande do Sul. From August 29 to September 6, Expointer will receive around 800 thousand people from several countries.

To let this expo continue as scheduled, is absurd, as even the university where I work, delayed the start of classes by two weeks, after winter vacation, to avoid spreading of the virus. Public schools also adopted the same action. In Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo, children and university students will be out of school for a longer time because of the same reason. Meanwhile, I ask: will school delays and increases in vacation time be effective to prevent people from gathering in malls, cinemas and other closed and suffocated places?

Only Three Laboratories Available for Diagnosis

My sister heard from a doctor, in a public hospital, that H1N1 is "the virus of the year". We know that every year, the Influenza virus suffers a mutation. This doctor explained that almost everybody who has the flu, can be infected by H1N1. The doctor warned my sister: "Of course, we can't say this to the public because it can make everybody panic."

After hearing my sister's story, it occurred to me that the public health service can't let people know that the H1N1 is closer than we think because then the public will look for hospitals and for drugs that should be guaranteed by federal government. But the government doesn't have policies in place to meet the threat. A simple blood test to check if someone is infected by A(H1N1) can take at least 15 days to be completed. In that time, the person infected by the virus can die. A 39 years old man suffered this fate.

He was taken in by the Hospital de Caridade Astrogildo de Azevedo, in Santa Maria, in the countryside in Rio Grande do Sul, for four days, under A(H1N1) suspicions. His blood was collected as soon as he arrived at the hospital and the sample went to the laboratory but it did not arrive until it was too late. This unfortunate incident happened because only three laboratories in all of Brazil are capable of diagnosing A (H1N1).

This is not the only case of patients dying under A(H1N1) suspicion before confirmed test results. Nevertheless the symptoms of the virus are very distinctive: high fever, body pain, sore throat, headache, nausea, vomit and diarrhea.

According Health ministry, until last Friday, 60 percent of Influenza virus that float in Brazil are A(H1N1). Until now, 56 people died because of the virus and other 10,623 cases are suspected.

The media and all governmental authorities say that A(H1N1) is under control. Last week, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation released a generic medicine to Tamiflu. And 210,000 doses were delivered to the Health ministry. With medicine at hand and with the situation "under control", should we feel more safe from the A(H1N1)? We will wait, watch and see.
©2009 OhmyNews

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