The Ministry of Health is investigating two deaths which are associated with respiratory illnesses.

Acting Minister of Health, Michael Lashley, made the disclosure today during a Press briefing at the ministry to address an increase in influenza-like illnesses on the island as well as a rise in the number of dengue fever cases so far this year.

In reference to influenza, Mr. Lashley said that as of Wednesday, September 25, samples were collected from 10 patients and preliminary tests were done at the Public Health Laboratory here. These samples were then sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for further testing, he noted. These results are expected to be back within the next week.

The Acting Minister added that the Ministry was also awaiting results from the Agency on the two persons who died.

???The Ministry will share the results of the testing with the public as soon as we receive word from CARPHA,??? Mr. Lashley stated.
He said that while H1N1 had been identified in some Caribbean countries, health officials here were unable to say ???at this time??? if the current influenza cases were as a result of that virus. He stressed the need for persons to practise good hygiene measures to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses.

??????Measures such as covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, along with proper disposal of tissues and thorough hand washing are the most effective measures for preventing the spread of respiratory infections. Whether it is H1N1 or any type of influenza virus, we need to continue to practise [these] measures.

???I am encouraging Barbadians to cooperate with public health instructions issued by the Ministry of Health. Persons who become ill are reminded that appropriate medical treatment is available. If you have symptoms of influenza, I strongly encourage you to seek medical attention at an early stage. This is especially important for persons who have chronic conditions,??? Mr. Lashley emphasised.

Addressing the matter of the increase in dengue fever cases, the Acting Minister said that ???as far as we know at this time??? only one death from a mosquito-borne illness had been reported for the year. That death occurred in May. To date, there were 511 confirmed cases of dengue fever compared to 169 cases for the same period last year.

As a result, he said the Environmental Health Division had implemented a number of measures to help reduce the level of mosquito breeding. He also appealed to householders to inspect their premises on a weekly basis to eliminate places where water could settle and where mosquitoes could breed.

???This is one of the most effective actions which members of the public can take to address this situation. Our public health officials will continue to undertake all protective measures as are needed at this time to address these two situations. We have a good surveillance system in place which will allow us to detect any new cases of influenza or dengue fever,??? Mr. Lashley stated.

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