Health officials appeal for calm in wake of swine flu deaths | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 04.01.2011
  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages


Health officials appeal for calm in wake of swine flu deaths

Two people have died from swine flu in the western German state of Lower Saxony, but the authorities are warning against panic. Experts say vaccination is the best defense against the deadly strain of influenza.

A needle is inserted into the arm of a patient

A three-year-old girl and 51-year-old man have died of H1N1

After Monday’s confirmation that two people had died of swine flu in Lower Saxony, the state’s minister of social affairs Ayguel Oezkan met with relatives of the victims. Oezkan spoke compassionately to the families of the three-year-old girl and 51-year-old man. Germans should be vigilant against influenza, the minister said, but without panicking.

"There is no reason to panic, it's clear that the vaccine is effective against influenza and the best protection against infection," Oezkan said.

How and where exactly the two patients at the Goettingen University Hospital were infected with the swine flu is not known. But it is clear that the 51-year-old suffered from a pre-existing condition. The three-year-old girl, however, should have been quite healthy.

Hard to predict

The president of the state's health department, Matthias Pulz also warned against panic, saying these deaths do not necessarily mean there is a new threat of pandemic.

"We deplore any time there is a tragic death during influenza season," Pulz said at a press conference.

"Most afflicted are people with underlying medical conditions. Particularly tragic is that this three-year-old girl had no such pre-existing condition. But influenza viruses are very unpredictable."

Swine flu never left

In fact, according to Berlin Charité virologist Joerg Hofmann, the swine flu never really went away.

"It never left, the media just didn't notice," Hofmann told public broadcaster ARD.

"In the third quarter of 2010, there were 35 cases, and in the fourth quarter there were 100 cases. Now we expect that the numbers will increase steadily, but that's normal for this time of year."

And it is the officially the flu season. Lower Saxony's health department reported that 29 percent of all of the state's tested potential flu cases came back positive, while a positive rate of only 20 percent generally signifies the beginning of the flu season. The season is expected to last through February.

Importance of vaccinations

A spokeswoman for the Robert Koch Institute, told the news agency dpa that by early December, 32 cases of swine flu had been detected nationwide, with a further 50 cases still unclear.

Up to 10,000 people die each year in Germany from regular influenza, mostly elderly or those weakened by pre-existing conditions.

The best defense, according to Lower Saxony health department's Pulz, is vaccination. Ayguel Oezkan also encouraged pregnant women, the chronically ill and older people to go to the doctor to get vaccinated.

During the last flu season in 2009 and 2010, 27 people died from the swine flu in Lower Saxony alone, with authorities counting 350 deaths throughout Germany.

Author: Stuart Tiffen (dpa, AP)
Editor: Rob Turner

DW recommends