Press conference hosted by the Minister of Home Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams re: the eruption of La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent – April 9, 2021. (PMO)

With the possibility of ash from the erupting La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent affecting Barbados, asthmatics and people with chronic lung disease are being encouraged to take appropriate preventative measures.

This advice came today from Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, during a press conference to discuss the volcano explosion in St. Vincent and the implications for Barbados.

Dr. George said any ash fall could result in persons having respiratory issues. “So, persons who have asthma and … chronic lung disease need to be aware of the situation and need to take protective action. They need to remain indoors if possible and those who cannot remain indoors need to use protective gear or clothing, when they are on the outside….

“We have always told Barbadians that you need to have an adequate supply of your asthmatic medication, to make sure that this can take you through the acute stage of the disease,” he explained.

The Chief Medical Officer added that with any fallen ash, persons could also develop eye and skin irritations. “Persons may have eye allergies – burning and itching of the eyes – and some itching of the skin; these can be managed.

“So, on a case by case basis, I would encourage persons to stay at home. Use their preventative medication that they normally use and only if severe symptoms persist should you seek care either at our polyclinics or at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital,” he stressed.

Dr. George encouraged members of the public to stay focused at this time and to take their directions from public health officials.

Meanwhile, Director of the Environmental Protection Department, Anthony Headley, said an air quality monitoring station was already in place, and a second would be added.

“These monitoring stations would allow us to monitor the dust levels in terms of concentration of air against the WHO standards, which will allow us to put preventative measures in place as well, … particularly a warning system to inform persons when the air quality has deteriorated below WHO standards,” Mr. Headley stated.

He noted that over the last month, there was an increase in the air quality in dust levels at the monitoring station, located at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology.

“And since April 6, we have seen a 66 per cent increase in dust levels and that is associated with the current haze that we are seeing,” he pointed out.

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