The Ministry of Health has confirmed that there are four cases of influenza A H1N1 in Barbados, with one death among these cases.

News of this comes following results from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad which tested 10 samples which were sent to them last week. The other six samples were negative for the H1N1 virus.

According to Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand, the best way to reduce transmission of the virus is by practising good respiratory hygiene measures. ???Keep disposable tissue handy, so that you can cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, or use your elbow. Used tissue should be discarded in a covered garbage can or placed in a plastic bag. Frequent and proper hand washing is essential and we should avoid touching our eyes, nose or mouth as germs can enter our body this way.???

She advised those persons who may be exhibiting flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever, coughing and sore throat) to avoid being out in public and to stay away from work or school until fever free for 24hrs without the use of fever reducing medication. If the symptoms persist and worsen, she noted, then these persons should go to their doctor or polyclinic.

The acting CMO stressed that sick children ???must not be sent to day care???, adding that where higher risk categories are concerned ??? pregnant persons, 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 ???should seek medical attention at the onset of the symptoms.

Dr. Ferdinand also indicated that the country has adequate supplies of Tamiflu which is recommended for persons in high risk groups, and those who need hospitalisation. In addition, the Ministry of Health is expecting a shipment of the seasonal influenza vaccine today (September 30). This vaccine contains the H1N1 virus and will be offered to frontline workers in the public sector and persons in high risk groups. Dr. Ferdinand reiterated that most persons who suffer from influenza will experience only mild illness and will recover in three to five days without the need for medical attention.

In light of the outbreak, the senior health official said that the Ministry of Health would be intensifying its public awareness efforts through various media as a way of sensitising the public about the do???s and don???ts in relation to Influenza A H1N1.

Dr. Ferdinand is encouraging members of the public to cooperate with public health guidelines as was done during the 2009 Influenza Pandemic. ???Your cooperation and support helped us to effectively respond at that time. The same level of response will help us to manage this current challenge,??? she emphasised.

Influenza A H1N1 is caused by a virus that was first brought to the attention of the global community in 2009. The Caribbean Public Health Agency recently reported that the H1N1 virus is the most commonly identified influenza virus circulating in the Caribbean Region.

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