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Director of Emergency Disaster Management and Special Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse, is dispelling claims that the Ministry is withholding information about the Influenza A (H1 NI) virus in the island.
She said that as soon as the reports of infections were confirmed, the information was made available to the public.
“As soon as we get results, we have to report it within 24 hours to PAHO (Pan American Health Organisation) and the WHO (World Health Organisation). We report at the same time to our media here, because it makes no sense to keep it on your desk and then you go online (and see it). As soon as we get confirmation, the reports are made,” she stated.
She was addressing the weekly luncheon of the Rotary Club of Kingston held on July 16 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.
The Director of Emergency Disaster Management and Special Services further informed that the Ministry was taking the necessary measures, in keeping with the WHO’s recommendations, to deal with the spread of the H1N1 virus.
These include heightened surveillance at ports of entry, informing the public of the reported cases within the island, alerting and training health sector workers, laboratory strengthening, and ensuring that the appropriate specimens were taken.
She assured that there were adequate stores of the recommended antiviral medicines in the island, while special swabs, used to collect samples, were being stockpiled, as the cotton swabs normally used, do not adequately capture and preserve the virus.
In the meantime, Dr. DuCasse is urging persons with flu-like symptoms, who may be among the high risk group for complications associated with Influenza A, to seek immediate medical attention.
This group includes children under five years, pregnant women and persons with chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and asthma. “Persons with these illnesses should be presented with medical care very early. Do not take a chance with your illness,” she advised.
She noted that while there was as yet no vaccine for the virus, manufacturers are working on a vaccine, which should become available in September or October.
Until then, persons are being urged to protect themselves by taking the seasonal influenza vaccine, and to properly wash their hands with soap and water. Persons with flu-like symptoms, including fever, coughs, body aches, diarrhoea and vomiting, are being urged to stay home and to seek immediate treatment if condition worsens.
To date, there have been 44 confirmed cases of Influenza A within the island and two deaths. The cases have been identified all over the island, while St. Thomas, Portland, Hanover and Clarendon remain virus free.