Update On Influenza A H1N1

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Dr. Joy St. John????

The number of confirmed cases of influenza A H1N1 (2009) for Barbados now stands at 147, with a third death being recorded among infected persons.??

This was revealed today by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, in providing an update on the local situation.??

Dr. St John confirmed that this death, like the previous two, had occurred in an adult with underlying medical conditions.?? She noted that deaths among such individuals were probable from the onset of the pandemic and that the number of deaths so far for Barbados was similar to international trends, where persons with certain medical conditions were at higher risk of illness, or death.??

The senior health official once more emphasised that the number of confirmed cases reflected only a fraction of those persons who were likely to have contracted the illness, since not all individuals presenting with flu-like symptoms were being tested at this time.

Dr. St. John further revealed that the Ministry of Health’s surveillance system had detected a moderate decline in the number of persons presenting to health care facilities with flu-like symptoms over the past week, when compared to the surge of two weeks earlier.??

She advised, however, that this number was still considered to be above average and recommended that persons seeking health care at doctors’ offices or clinics should inform staff of their symptoms on arrival at a facility. Dr. St. John further indicated that they would be required to conform with any specially designated seating arrangements or other stipulations that are in place to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to other patients.

The Chief Medical Officer reminded members of the public that they must continue to follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.?? She reiterated that these included staying at home and away from school or work if they were experiencing fever, with a cough or sore throat, until they were fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.

The Health Official emphasized that every one should employ basic hygiene measures, such as frequent hand washing and covering of the nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing.??

Dr. St John stressed that while most persons suffering from influenza would experience only mild illness and would recover in three to five days without the need for medical attention, those individuals with prolonged or severe symptoms, and?? who fall into high risk categories, should seek prompt medical attention to access appropriate care and medication.??

She noted that Tamiflu, the antiviral drug of choice for treatment of persons at higher risk for complications from Influenza A (H1N1), was being sold at private pharmacies.?? However, members of the public are reminded that the Ministry supplies Tamiflu free of cost to Barbadians at polyclinics.?? It is also available free?? of cost to those seen by private doctors if a Specially Authorized Drug (SAD) Form and Barbados Drug Service prescription are presented to any polyclinic pharmacy.

The high risk categories outlined includes pregnant women, children under five years old, adults over 65 with heart disease or stroke?? and persons of any age with underlying chronic conditions, such as asthma and other lung diseases, diabetes, sickle cell anaemia, HIV and other conditions that may weaken the immune system.

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