From today 100,000 doses of influenza vaccines will be made available at public health centres as the Ministry of Health seeks to prevent the spread of the virus.
The H1N1 virus, in particular, has claimed over a dozen lives over the past decade and is especially dangerous to the elderly, babies and people suffering from obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh has denied there is a cover-up of the influenza statistics in response to a post shared on the Facebook page, ‘Kick out the PNM’ which claimed that there have been 30 deaths so far and 1,000 reported cases in hospitals across the country.
Seeking to dispel rumours that the virus was on the rise, Deyalsingh said the number of suspected cases in 2019 was much lower than in previous years. He said in 2016, the total number of suspected cases was 6,535 while the figure as of October 2019 was 2077.
The Ministry also issued a statement offering statistics for the period 2013 to 2019. The Ministry said zero deaths were recorded in 2016 and 2017, seven in 2018 and a further seven in 2019. There were no data available for the years 2013 to 2015. Even though the Ministry of Health says zero H1N1 deaths were recorded in 2016, an official death certificate from Point Fortin security guard Prakash Sookraj identified H1N1 illness as the cause of his death.
The official death certificate showed that he died from lower respiratory tract infection, hypoxic brain injury, H1N1 viral illness and chronic kidney injury.
Saying the Ministry is currently engaged in a robust Influenza Vaccination Drive for the 2020 Flu Season October 2019 to July 2020, the Ministry said this campaign has been rolled out to reduce the exposure and spread of the Influenza Virus.
“As a result of the aggressive campaigns previously instituted by the Ministry, T&T has seen a steady decline in reports of suspected influenza cases over the period 2016-2019.”
“In 2016 the total number of suspected cases was 6,535 and the figure as of 31st October 2019, is 2,077. As such, contrary to reports carried in the local media, there is currently no flu outbreak in T&T,” the Ministry added.
Saying distribution of 100,000 doses of the Influenza Vaccines will be made to all hospitals and health centres throughout T&T, the Ministry said this process should be completed by Friday.
The Ministry also urged citizens to contact their nearest health centre to confirm the days and times that the vaccine will be distributed.
The public also reminded that the influenza virus was more severe than the common cold.
“As such, the necessary personal health precautions should be taken to protect oneself and family from the Influenza virus and other diseases. This is the first line of defence against illness,” the Ministry added.
Last week former health minister Hamza Rafeeq said there was a resurgence of the virus. He called on the government to make adequate provisions to treat with the problem.