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The Ministry of Health is re-assuring the public that the country is adequately prepared to deal with an outbreak of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus in Jamaica, should there be such an occurrence.
Director of Emergency and Disaster Management and Special Services in the Ministry, Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse, said that there are adequate supplies of the two anti-virals recommended for treatment, Tamiflu and Zanamivir, even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) conducts research to develop a vaccine for the virus. In addition, there are ample supplies of surgical masks for distribution to restrict transmission of the virus through coughing, sneezing, or any other form of respiratory emission.
Speaking at a private sector disaster preparedness contingency forum on Influenza A at Jamaica House on Tuesday (May 5), Dr. Bullock-Ducasse said that the research, being conducted by WHO, should yield a vaccine within six months.
In the meantime, she assured that Tamiflu and Zanamivar are effective in shortening the lifespan of the virus, which is believed to have a five to seven-day incubation period within the infected host. The virus is not deemed able to survive for more than six hours outside of the body.
Dr. Bullock-Ducasse also advised that WHO has stockpiled medication, which can and will be released to Jamaica, should additional supplies be needed. She explained that Tamiflu, on average, is administered in two daily prescribed dosages of 75 milligrams. “It has to be administered early in the course of the disease to be most effective,” she pointed out.
She explained that “normally, it is given to persons, from one-year old and up but, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, has recently looked at their protocols, and we now have a treatment regime for children under one-year old. Of course, the use will have to be guided by the physician.”
She cautioned, however, that the medication is only to be taken or administered if prescribed by a physician, due to the serious side effects. “The worst (side effects) are hallucinations, feelings of fear; these are not things that you want to fool around with. The doctors consider it carefully in prescribing it, (because) it’s really (for) persons, who are severely ill and not responding (to other treatments, although) most persons will respond and recover on their own,” Dr. Bullock-Ducasse pointed out.
She advised that the medication is only available to the Government, via the Ministry of Health, pointing out that suppliers will not sell to anyone else, particularly during the current level five alert, global pandemic phase of the flu.
Dr. Bullock-Ducasse assured that while there are adequate supplies of surgical masks, persons can also use a handkerchief that is properly sanitised, either by washing with soap and water, or one part bleach to 10 parts of water, and rinsing afterwards.

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