Statement By Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, On Influenza A (H1N1) In Barbados

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Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John (left),??and Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand, at today’s??press conference.

Recently, there has been an increase in the incidence of persons with flu-like symptoms seeking medical attention at the eight polyclinics across the island, as well as at the Accident and Emergency Department at the QEH. It is expected that this will continue and may worsen.

This has had some effect on the services being offered at these institutions, and as a result certain measures have had to be put in place to address this development.

So far, there has been some reduction in certain public health services now offered as we seek to accommodate the large number of persons needing medical attention with flu symptoms. These may include being issued with repeat prescriptions and longer than normal appointments for those who are stable and seeking routine care for chronic conditions.

Let me state at the outset that, like the region of CARICOM and the rest of the world, we have witnessed a surge in the number of Influenza A (H1N1) cases being reported, and homes, schools and the workplace have been affected.

Indeed, the evidence, to date, has shown that some schools and a number of work places have reported unusual absenteeism because of flu-like cases.

The clear message from the Ministry of Health to those people who may be exhibiting flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever, coughing and sore throat) to stay home from work and school until fever free for 24hrs without the use of fever reducing medication. If the symptoms persist and or worsen, then these persons should go to their doctor or polyclinic immediately. However, it is not necessary for everyone without underlying conditions to seek medical attention at the outset of these symptoms, BUT ONLY if the initial symptoms persist and or worsen.

Where high risk categories and conditions are concerned – pregnant women, children under five years of age, persons over 65 years of age, and those with chronic medical conditions, including asthma and other lung conditions, sickle cell anaemia, heart disease, diabetes, and any other condition which may weaken the immune system – these persons should seek medical attention at the onset of the symptoms.

There have been a number of queries from the public about appropriate medication to counter this outbreak, especially for the higher risk categories. At present, Tamiflu is being recommended. However, it is only necessary for the abovementioned groups, and those persons who need hospitalization.

Persons with flu-like symptoms, attending health care facilities, should, immediately on arrival, inform the staff of their symptoms and they may be required to sit in a specially designated area and or wear a mask to protect others in close proximity.

In the wake of this surge in suspected cases the Ministry of Health will be intensifying its public awareness efforts to sensitize the public about the do’s and don’ts. We want to reiterate the basic hygiene measures that the public should continue to practice. (Hand hygiene and cough etiquette)???????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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