Senegal confirms H1N1 outbreak

DAKAR, Senegal — Modou Diagne Fada, Senegal’s minister of health and preventive medicine, confirmed that the country had been hit by the epidemic H1N1 influenza, AfricaNews reported Feb. 9.

According to earlier reports, the first cases were detected in the religious city of Touba and nearby Diourbel in the central part of the country.

These places were the scene of religious festivities, as hundreds of thousands of followers of the Mouride Muslim Brotherhood gathered recently to celebrate the 115th edition of “Grand Magal” of Touba, in memory of the departure into exile in Gabon in 1895 of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, the founder of the Brotherhood. Serign Bamba, as the religious leader as called, is a revered figure for millions in this part of Africa.

Diagne, the health minister, convened a press briefing not only to confirm the outbreak of the disease, but also to allay fears, saying that the country was equipped enough to contain the situation.

He said 14 cases of H1N1 flu were recorded between the three districts of Dagana, Diourbel and Touba.

The World Health Organization said Feb. 11 that there have been 42 mild cases of pandemic H1N1 influenza in Senegal, but no deaths, according to Keiji Fukuda, the special pandemic influenza adviser to the WHO’s director-general.

"Western Africa is one part of the world where we haven't seen much activity," he said. "We may be seeing a general decline, but in some places community outbreaks can [still] be expected."

According to health experts, Senegal does not yet have a vaccine. But Diagne is already calling for patients suspected of infection to be isolated until examination confirms their cases.

“We have enough resources to deal with influenza AH1N1,” he said. ''We will deal with all cases and we have the means.''

The minister noted that among those infected none had died, and that all had in fact ‘‘been taken care of, treated and returned home.”