Dr. Joy St. John

The number of confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1) 2009 in Barbados has now risen to 112, inclusive of the death that was reported earlier this week.

This is an increase of 16 over the 96 cases that were announced recently. Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, has, however, reiterated that this number reflects only a portion of the number of persons who are likely to have contracted the illness, since not all persons presenting with flu-like symptoms are being tested at this time.?? This is in keeping with the international recommendation of selective testing, once widespread in-country transmission has been established.??

While noting that the Ministry of Health’s surveillance had confirmed that Influenza (A H1N1 2009) is the predominant influenza virus circulating in Barbados at this time, Dr. St. John said that the polyclinics and some private health care facilities are continuing to report large numbers of persons seeking care for influenza like illness.

She reminded members of the public that they must follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health. These include "staying at home and away from school or work if you are experiencing fever, with a cough or sore throat, until you are fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication, along with employing basic hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing and covering of nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing."

Dr. St John reiterated that most persons suffering from influenza will experience only mild illness and will recover in three to five days without the need for medical attention. She noted that such persons could take over-the-counter medication such as Panadol, Paracetamol or Tylenol for relief of symptoms and may not need to see a doctor.??

The CMO was, however, quick to point out that, on the other hand, if someone’s symptoms were prolonged or severe, or if persons fall into a high risk category, they would need to seek prompt medical attention, to allow for appropriate treatment to be prescribed.??????

The high risk categories outlined include persons with asthma and other underlying lung conditions, people over 65 with heart disease or stroke, women who are pregnant, children under the age of five, people with sickle cell anaemia and diabetes and persons with HIV disease or any condition which may result in an impaired???? immune system.

Persons seeking medical attention at doctors’ offices or clinics are also reminded that they should inform the staff of their symptoms immediately on arrival at the facility, and they might be required to wear a mask or sit in a specially designated area in order to reduce the risk of passing on the virus to other patients.

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