The World Health Organization is watching a suspected flu case in Benin which, if confirmed, would be the first on the African continent.

The continent is making preparations for the arrival of the influenza A H1N1, the WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo said.

More than 50 percent of member states have activated plans and are ready to respond. In terms of surveillance, it is being done, Dr Sambo said.

“In terms of treatment, WHO dispatched already some doses. It is not much, it is about 1,000 doses of TamiFlu to all African countries and more will come. he added.

The new suspected flu case has raised concerns and awareness about the continent's one of the most serious public health challenges, the high rate of maternal and infant mortality.

If we have epidemic with this new flu, it may aggravate the already poor health condition of people, said Dr Sambo. Those who are most vulnerable, those with immune deficiencies, either by HIV/AIDS, or those in situation of malnutrition or sick people, so we must do our best to prevent and avoid that the continent is hit by the epidemic.

In Africa, the rate of maternal and infant mortality is higher than from flu. African women are dying in childbirth at a rate of one per minute. For every 100,000 births in Africa, 1,000 of the mothers die.

The African region has other more important health problems than the current epidemic, said Dr Sambo. He emphasized that flu is not a serious health problem in Africa in terms of mortality compared to AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.