Suspected H1N1 patient dies

A patient who was suspected to have been infected with the H1N1 virus (swine flu) has died.

This is according to information received from Minister of Public Health Dr George Norton. Norton told Stabroek News yesterday that the patient who was aged and had a compromised immune system died last Friday night at a city hospital. He said there has been no confirmation that the patient was afflicted with the virus.

“We have sent off samples from the patient to be tested at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which is the only laboratory in the Caribbean able to confirm the presence of the H1N1 virus but have not yet received a response,” Norton said.

Asked if any attempts have been made to isolate persons who may have been in contact with the patient, Norton said that at this stage there is no need for that.

“Unless they begin showing symptoms we will not take steps to isolate them,” he said.

He also noted that he and the technical officers in the ministry are considering an inoculating programme similar to the one which has been implemented in Trinidad but this is to be run off only if it becomes necessary.

“There is a vaccine which is available and can be accessed but we are not yet at a stage where we need to consider using it widely,” Norton said adding that he expects no problems if it were to become necessary for an inoculation programme to be implemented.

“Our track record on vaccination is such that I expect no problems. It won’t be like what the Minister of Health in Trinidad is facing with nurses refusing to take the vaccine,” he noted.

The Trinidad Guardian reported on December 18, that the country’s Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh had revealed that nurses were refusing to be vaccinated.

Trinidad has in 2015 confirmed 29 cases of H1N1, three of which have resulted in death. The recent death of a 28-year-old mother has not been linked to the virus though it was confirmed that she was infected with the disease.

Meanwhile, Norton continues to stress that Guyana is fully prepared to deal with the virus. He stated that a national task force inclusive of specially trained medical personnel and the port health officers are ready to handle any situation that may develop.

The H1N1 virus is a strain of influenza which in 2009 was considered a novel strain. In that year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the H1N1 strain of influenza a pandemic. By the beginning of 2010 the virus was responsible for approximately 17,000 deaths worldwide. Since that time a vaccine has been approved for use with research showing a single dose creates enough antibodies to protect against the virus within about 10 days.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in humans the symptoms of the “swine flu” are similar to those of influenza and of influenza-like illness in general. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, watery eyes, body aches, shortness of breath, headache, weight loss, chills, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, dizziness, abdominal pain, lack of appetite and fatigue. The viruses are also spread in similar ways, that is, when infected people cough or sneeze, then other people breathe in the virus or touch something with the virus on it and then touch their own faces.

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