A 61-year-old man died at the Sangre Grande District Health Facility yesterday, making him the sixth victim of the H1N1 virus, since the first reported death last year.Jewan Maharaj died after spending 18 days in the Intensive Care Unit of the facility, due to complications from a combination of hypertension and the H1N1 influenza, also known as swine flu.
The Health Ministry reported Maharaj's death in a release yesterday and reminded citizens to begin taking preventative measures.
"At this time, we take the opportunity to remind citizens that influenza can cause severe illness in some persons, including the elderly, infants, young children and pregnant women as well as those with chronic medical conditions, such as heart, lung, kidney disease, hypertension and diabetes," it added.
The release said the virus could be spread when an infected person coughed or sneezed and droplets containing viruses get into the air and were inhaled by people nearby. "People can also become infected by touching surfaces contaminated with flu viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose," the release said.
It urged the public to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, like influenza, by covering their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
It also advised citizens to wash hands with soap and water regularly, avoid close contact with people who have flu-like symptoms and seek immediate medical attention if they had difficulty breathing, chest tightness, the inability to eat or drink, persistent vomiting, or confusion.
The ministry said safe and effective vaccines that could prevent influenza or reduce the severity of illness were available at local health centres and citizens seeking those were asked to contact their local health centre or Regional Health Authority to set an appointment.
"Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious complications of influenza and for people who live with or care for high risk individuals.
"After vaccination, persons still ought to take preventative measures to reduce the spread of viruses," it added.
More vaccinesavailable, saysDeyalsingh
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said citizens could go to health centres to obtain free H1N1 vaccine since T&T now had more vaccines than last year.Replying to Opposition questions in Parliament yesterday, he said the ministry had obtained 40,000 vaccines where there were only 10,000 last year.
He said there were now six H1N1 deaths, latest being a 61-year-old man who was in the "at risk" category and was overweight and hypertensive.
Deyalsingh said deaths due to viral pneumonia were really due to H1N1. H1N1 testing took one to two weeks and if a patient was suspected of having it, they should start on Tamiflu and ensure friends and relatives were vaccinated, he added.
Deyalsingh was unable to say if Government planned to build a health centre at Tableland. He said a review to determine health centre needs in T&T would be completed in the next three months.