The Hon. Donville Inniss

In an effort to ensure that Barbadians and visitors to these shores remain free from the swine flu virus, the Ministry of Health has stepped up surveillance at all health care institutions.

This was announced last evening, by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, as he spoke to members of the media at his Jemmotts Lane Headquarters, about the national campaign to combat the virus.

"We have circulated to the physicians and health institutions in the private sector as well as specific case studies and procedures to be followed in the event of any suspected cases and I am satisfied that these are being followed.

"As would be expected at the onslaught of such a pandemic, given the fact that the symptoms of the swine flu virus are not dissimilar to that of seasonal influenza, we have started to see an increase in the numbers of individuals who may be presenting themselves with flu-like symptoms at their health care institutions and we are taking each one seriously," he stressed.

However, the Health Minister cautioned that persons should not "start running to the health care institutions.

We have already indicated the need to take your sanitation a lot more seriously in terms of hand washing, covering your nose if you sneeze, using disposable tissues and the basic sanitary activities that are required anyhow. We just want individuals and families to take such practices a lot more seriously and we will embark on a public relations exercise to prevent the spread of germs and assist in dealing with this particular pandemic," the Health Minister remarked.

Mr. Inniss also emphasised that his Ministry was taking extra precautions to ensure that all frontline health care workers, whether in the private or public sectors, would be adequately protected. He said physicians and those treating patients would know the procedure of taking the requisite samples, and should place them in secure containers, provided by the Ministry of Health. These would be sent off to the Caribbean Epidemiological Centre, (CAREC) in Trinidad for testing of the particular flu virus.

The Minister noted that CAREC had been designated by the World Health Organisation as the testing centre for the Caribbean. He explained that this had to be done because the public health laboratory in Barbados was not equipped to test for the virus.

Meanwhile, Pan American Health Organisation representative for the Caribbean, Dr Betzi Butron, explained that CAREC would provide the results of any suspected cases as soon as possible. However, she stressed that knowing the results of the tests would not have any effect on the course of treatment. She advised that if persons showed symptoms of a high fever, a cough and had travelled to any of the affected areas, then these would be a high indicator of infection, and treatment should be started immediately.

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