Barbados has protocols in place that should adequately manage an outbreak of influenza.

Senior Medical Officer of Health and Head Epidemiologist with the Ministry of Health, Dr. Karen Springer, made these comments today during a Press briefing at the Ministry of Health, to address matters relating to increases in influenza and dengue fever cases.

She said a shipment of seasonal influenza vaccines should be on the island by month-end and priority would be given first to frontline workers and then vulnerable persons such as those with chronic diseases.

Dr. Springer explained that the vaccine usually protected against three viruses ??? Influenza B, Influenza A (H1N1) and Influenza H3N2. She added that surveillance at the ports of entry had always been high and would continue to be so especially in light of the global circulation of H7N9 and the Coronavirus.

The Senior Medical Officer further added that the vaccine was a preventative measure and not a treatment. However, Ministry officials explained that treatment was available in adequate supplies on the island for those who contracted seasonal influenza.

Dr. Springer said that the proportion of patients admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with respiratory symptoms for 2013 was less than 10 per cent.

???For this year, the number of cases up to this time is not as great as the number of cases compared to last year. For instance, from the public sector there were 1,137 cases of acute respiratory illness last year that were actually reported, compared to 807 cases so far this year. If you compare the period up to this year, compared to last year there are fewer cases this year, but in the last couple of weeks, there has been a slight increase in the number of cases reported from the public sector,??? she explained.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Tennyson Springer, said it was not necessarily just the number of influenza cases that prompted the Ministry to step-up action but also the severity of the cases.

??????Or [it could be] the number of cases within a very small period that you would say well look, something is happening here. We do have concerns at this point about the level of influenza and the severity of some of the cases. That is why we have taken the necessary precautions to talk to the public and try to get confirmation tests done on the samples that we are sending off. We do have concerns as the agency responsible for health in the country. A lot of these things can be prevented in terms of spread, and we as Barbadians have to participate actively in this process to reduce the spread,??? Mr. Springer emphasised.

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