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Jump in respiratory cases
WHILE numbers of persons seeking help for influenza-like symptoms are not as high as last year, there has been a marked increase over the past three weeks.
Health officials are concerned about the number of persons that have sought attention in this short span of time and the severity of the cases.
Senior Medical Health Officer, Dr. Karen Springer, revealed that from August 23 to September 13 of this year, there were 137 cases of acute respiratory infection reported from the public sector compared to 94 cases for the similar period in 2012.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Tennyson Springer, told the media yesterday, “It is not necessarily the number of cases that would prompt the Ministry to step up action, but sometimes the severity of a case or the number of cases within a very small period, you would say something is happening here.
“We have concerns here 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, which we are sending off. We do have concerns as the agency responsible for health in the country,” he said.
Dr. Springer told the media that the Ministry will be receiving vaccines next week, which will be used to prevent against three viruses – Influenza B, as well as Influenza A H1N1 and seasonal influenza H3N2.
She said front-line workers will be vaccinated initially, followed by those who are more at risk for complications from influenza.
Dr. Springer assured that health officials are being vigilant throughout the entire system, including the ports of entry.
“At this point in time, we are continuing the vigilance. Because of the circulation worldwide of H7N9 and Corona virus, we continue to be alert and vigilant as to the respiratory illnesses that are circulating.”
The epidemiologist said symptoms include fever, cough or sore throat, feel lethargic, muscle aches and pains. If cases become more severe, patients may present with shortness of breath and may require hospitalisation.
She used the opportunity to remind the public to practise good respiratory hygiene, in light of how easily these viruses spread. “It is going to be a factor which is going to affect how fast the virus spreads from person to person. I would like to emphasise good respiratory hygiene is really key to the transmission of viruses.”
Permanent Secretary Springer clarified that there is a vaccine for prevention and also a vaccine for treatment. “Treatment for persons who were diagnosed with the flu is available on the island. We have adequate supplies, and if people seek treatment early and are diagnosed, they can access the treatment,” he assured. (JH)