Barbados probing two deaths from respiratory illnesses

(Barbados Nation) Health officials are investigating two deaths associated with respiratory illnesses and awaiting on test results from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to determine whether the H1N1 virus has surfaced in Barbados again.

Acting Minister of Health Michael Lashley today confirmed that following a spike in “influenza-like illnesses”, preliminary tests were done on samples collected from ten patients and they have now been sent off to the Trinidad-based CARPHA for further testing.

The results are expected back within the next week.

“We are aware that the H1N1 virus has been identified in some countries in the Caribbean region; however, we are unable to say at this time, if the current influenza cases are as a result of the H1N1 virus,” Lashley said at a media conference at the ministry this morning.

“However, I want to remind Barbadians that simple hygiene 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 other type of influenza virus, we need to continue to practice good hygiene measures,” he added, as he “strongly encouraged” anyone with symptoms of influenza to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Michael Lashley
Michael Lashley

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Tennyson Springer told reporters that while officials did not want to alarm the public, they were concerned about the spike in the number of cases at this point.

Senior Medical Officer of Health Dr Karen Springer said while the overall number of cases of acute respiratory illness up to this point was down over last year – 807 compared to 1 137 in 2012 – there has been a sudden increase in recent weeks. Between August 23 and September 13, there were 137 cases recorded at public sector medical facilities, compared to 94 for a similar period last year.

Meantime, Lashley has also urged Barbadians to inspect their premises and eliminate places where water can settle and mosquitos can breed, as health authorities record a tripling in the number of dengue fever cases.

There have been 511 so far this year compared to 169 for the same period in 2012.

Lashley said there has only been one confirmed death from dengue fever so far this year, the same number in 2012.

However, he insisted that the death this year occurred in May and health officials could not confirm media reports that a bank manager had died from the illness this week.

Lashley assured that public health officials would continue to undertake all protective measures to address both the influenza and dengue situations.

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