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Six local swine flu cases confirmed: Health Ministry

Health Minister dispels bird flu rumours
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Dr Fuad Khan, Minister of Health

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said there were six confirmed influenza A H1N1 virus (swine flu) cases in T&T, but assured the public there was no need to panic.


He could not confirm that there was a death at the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) last Saturday as a result of the virus.


“There’s a possibility...Most likely it was,” Khan said.  


Khan explained it was likely the public’s recent fear and concern were triggered by reports of instances of death as a result of the virus in neighbouring countries. According to reports, one person has died in Barbados.


Speaking to the media yesterday at his ministry headquarters on Park Street, Port-of-Spain, Khan said there was no epidemic, and furthermore, swine flu cases were “nothing new” to the country.


“I want to assure the public that this H1N1 which is called swine flu...has been around in T&T since 2009. We have been having cases since 2009.”


He said the ministry was trying to avoid the spread of “overreaction and overtreatment” throughout the country, as it did in 2009.


While saying high-risk people included children, seniors and those with weaker immune systems, Khan still advised anyone who showed symptoms of the virus—common cold, fever, cough— to go immediately to a health facility.


“I would suggest that anybody who, or whose family has these symptoms should see a medical doctor to be assessed as soon as possible.”


When asked whether facilities were ready for such an influx of people who may experience flu-like symptoms, Khan was emphatic that there were sufficient medical personnel and medicine available.


“We have a lot of health professionals in the country, both public and private and I think they will be taking care of this disorder. And the ones that need further treatment, we send to the emergency centres.”


He said people should not seek out vaccinations if they think they have the virus.


“[At] the Ministry of Health we have adequate medication for management, we have adequate vaccination prevention. But there should not be a run on vaccinations.”


Not all patients would receive a vaccine, as that would be reserved for high-risk patients after testing.


“Those are the ones we would be looking to vaccinate after assessment by a medical doctor at a health office or a private centre.”


He said when people went for treatment too late their respiratory systems would already be in “disarray,” increasing the risk of death.


Khan also stressed that patients should not rely on any type of antibiotics, as those are ineffective in fighting off the virus.


“You must go to the nearest emergency centre for treatment, because you have to have intensive care management where you may need assisted ventilation.”


Results from testing for the virus takes up to five days to process, Khan said.


Airport authorities have been put on the alert to be vigilant about incoming and outgoing travellers.


“We’ve alerted the airlines to look for people with symptoms, and they would not be able to fly.”


Asked if special screening would be done on passengers from neighbouring countries, Khan said the stringent checks were for everyone.


“This is a problem that is throughout Caricom and throughout the world since 2009.”


The ministry plans to start a campaign to promote awareness and education, with the distribution of pamphlets in health facilities and schools about the virus’s symptoms and how to prevent infection.


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