Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram told Guardian Media there was no epidemic of influenza at this point and the more severe flu should be distinguished from the common cold.
His comment came in the face of recent cases of the H1N1 (Swine Flu) and H3N2 flu - and at least one death suspected due to complications.
Parasram, however, confirmed that H1N1 had been circulating since 2009 and the H3N2 flu also after that, in the region.
“We’ve been doing swabbing and we have H1N1 and H3N2 in circulation since last year as well as the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). With the influenza, the fever is very high grade and comes on more quickly with complications than the common cold,”
Parasram said all of the diseases - the influenzas as well as the common cold - are spread by droplet infection.
“Therefore everyone’s cough and sneeze etiquette is important. Cough or sneeze into a handkerchief, or cover-up. The main thing, however, is if you’re ill, is to stay at home - children especially - since it’s spread by contact,” he added.
Pararam said it was expected flu vaccines may be in health centres by end of the week if not before.
He recommended people shouldn’t take antibiotics for the influenza - except where there are complications - but use multisymptom tablets.
Meanwhile, the Opposition has called on the Government to come clean on the situation and not to attempt any cover-up.
“I spoke to the Health Minister on the situation last Friday and he was aware that about 20 cases of H1N1 had been confirmed by the Port-of-Spain lab,” said UNC MP Bhoe Tewarie yesterday.
“Yet nobody is taking charge to apprise the public of the full situation so people will not fall victim to this and will know what level of care to seek when they get ill. I’d hate to think this is another cover-up by the Government. People are ill and some may be dying because of this,” he said.
Tewarie added there had been several cases of people with severe flu-like symptoms in his constituency and two deaths occurred - one up to last Sunday.
“Last Friday I attended the funeral of a Mission Road businessman in his early 60s who died recently. I have no way to verify but his family believes his death was as a consequence of the flu which he had. He was treated at the medical facility. Since then I’ve been checking and I found there is a H1N1 problem in T&T. I was told last week by a public health official that swabs from labs have been showing there are about 20 confirmed H1N1 cases in Port-of-Spain,” Tewarie added.
However, Tewarie said he further received news yesterday of the death of another constituent of Uquarie Road - age 58 - who died last Sunday of complications arising from pneumonia.
“This was after the person had had the flu for weeks. People aren’t getting treated for the correct thing it seems until late and if misdiagnoses occur, it could affect people seriously,” he said.