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‘H1N1 increase no reason to panic’

‘H1N1 increase no reason to panic’

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An increase in the number of confirmed cases of the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is no reason for persons to swarm health care facilities across the country.{{more}}

This is according to Minister of Health Dr. Douglas Slater, as he spoke at a press conference on Tuesday.

Slater, accompanied by Chief Medical Officer Dr. St. Clair Thomas and Dr. Jennifer George, Epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health, stressed that the virus in its mild state can be treated like regular influenza.

“We feel confident enough that what we are seeing is just basically like the normal flu. You can take home treatment for the H1N1,” Slater stated.

“You and I know that when most people come down with a little flu they take some Panadol or Aspirin over the counter. The truth is, you can do the same thing for this.”

Because of this, Slater is urging the public to stay at home if they are experiencing the typical flu-like symptoms.

“We have noticed that there is a significant increase in the number of persons turning up at the health centres, especially to the hospital. We want to use this opportunity to ask people to try and desist from doing that.”

“Your first point of entry is the health centre if you think you are feeling sick enough to go to the doctor.”

“If you are having high fever, shortness of breath or you are coughing up matter, go to the doctor.”

“Nobody is helped by having a rush on the hospital, because what happens is that if too many people with the virus come down there… we don’t want those who don’t have it to get it; and that might be you.”

Admitting that there were concerns in the Ministry when the virus first came on the scene earlier this year, Slater stressed that he wanted to assure the public that the virus is now under control.

The H1N1 virus first appeared in April this year, and was discovered to have originated in Mexico.

The virus spread rapidly because of worldwide travel, which Slater indicated was the reason for this country’s first recorded case in June.

He added that since then, measures are being taken to control the spread of the virus.

One such measure was the closing of the St. Mary’s Roman Catholic School, when students there reported ill.

Consequently, nine students from that school were confirmed with cases of Swine Flu.

The health officials indicated that the health ministry was in communication with the Ministry of Education, and although there would be no more school closures, students who are not feeling well are being advised to stay at home.

This advice, Slater indicated, also goes for persons in the workplace.

Dr. George highlighted some public health measures that should be taken to prevent the spread, not only of H1N1, but any germ or influenza.

“We are advocating constant hand washing, covering of the mouth when coughing or sneezing.”

“The responsibility is not only for the Ministry of Health to do what we have to do, but for the general public to exercise what they know is right when you have a flu or any other illness here in St. Vincent.”

The issue of discrimination was also raised at the press conference, to which the health minister indicated that there is no reason to do so.

He reminded that the virus is like any other flu, which disappears after a few days of treatment.

The health officials believe that if persons take the necessary precautions, the Swine Flu virus would be further contained.

They gave their commitment that routine surveillance of the virus will continue. (JJ)

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