“No con­firmed cases on H1N1 or Zika in Saint Lucia” – Health Min­istry

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Na­tional Epi­demi­ol­o­gist in the Min­istry of Health, Well­ness, Hu­man Ser­vices and Gen­der Re­la­tions, Nahum Jn Bap­tiste, re­ported that there are no con­firmed cases of the Zika Virus or H1N1 virus in Saint Lucia as yet.

He says the Epi­demi­ol­ogy Unit has im­ple­mented an ef­fec­tive and re­li­able Syn­dromic Sur­veil­lance Sys­tem to mon­i­tor pat­terns in un­dif­fer­en­ti­ated fev­ers and other such symp­toms.

“What we do is se­lect the most im­por­tant symp­toms for cer­tain diseases that we know out­break dur­ing the year, dur­ing par­tic­u­lar times of the year. Ex­am­ple: for the in­fluenza it’s around this time, the win­ter sea­son over in the States, and for the Chikun­guna or Dengue it would be around the hur­ri­cane sea­son in our case. So we track those symp­toms ev­ery week and when we see an in­crease in the ex­pected num­ber of cases, we know that there is in­creased ac­tiv­ity and the pos­si­bil­ity of an out­break.” Jn Bap­tiste stated.

He added that once an out­break is de­tected, the min­istry moves quickly to pre­vent fur­ther spread of the dis­ease.

The great­est chal­lenge for the min­istry, as with the rest of the Caribbean, Jn Bap­tiste pointed out, is with con­firm­ing which dis­ease is in cir­cu­la­tion as symp­toms of Dengue, Chikun­gunya, Zika and even H1N1 are sim­i­lar. All sus­pected sam­ples, he said, go to the Caribbean Pub­lic Health Agency (CARPHA) to con­firm the par­tic­u­lar agent.

“But we can­not wait un­til it is con­firmed be­fore we start to im­ple­ment mea­sures to pre­vent it from spread­ing to the rest of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion with a lot more per­sons be­com­ing ill,” Jn Bap­tiste stated.

In 2009 H1N1, or Swine Flu, be­came a pan­demic with world-wide spread of this strain of in­fluenza. The Na­tional Epi­demi­ol­o­gist said there is al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity of a huge out­break once an agent meets a sus­cep­ti­ble pop­u­la­tion just as it was with Chikun­gunya last year. “Travel history is very im­por­tant; per­sons travel to the United States all the time, per­sons from the States come down here and so on and it’s the same thing be­tween us and Mar­tinique and the Caribbean coun­tries and so there is al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity of us get­ting out­breaks of those viruses.”

Typ­i­cal symp­toms of the H1N1 Virus in­clude fever, headache, cough, runny nose and mus­cle pain. In pre­vent­ing the spread of in­fluenza, Jn Bap­tiste ad­vo­cates per­sonal hy­giene prac­tices. The H1N1 virus can be spread through the air or by droplet nu­clei when some­one in­hales it thus the most ef­fec­tive method, he ad­vised, is to cough into your el­bows, wash hands reg­u­larly and ex­er­cise good per­sonal hy­giene to pre­vent the spread from per­son to per­son.

Jn Bap­tiste stressed that per­sons should take all ad­vi­sories of H1N1 se­ri­ously as this virus is known to be fa­tal prey­ing par­tic­u­larly on vul­ner­a­ble per­sons such as the el­derly, per­sons with co-mor­bid con­di­tions in­clud­ing diabetes and hy­per­ten­sion, and per­sons with re­duced im­mu­nity.

“So it’s not some­thing we would want to just spread like wild­fire here. Even now as we are in the flu sea­son, so to speak, and es­pe­cially if you are trav­el­ling abroad or ac­cept­ing per­sons who have trav­eled abroad and have a cough, the in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod is very short; it’s one to five days. You would see this per­son get­ting that cough and af­ter one or two days not pro­gress­ing at all. Im­me­di­ately con­tact your health­care provider so that we can first of all en­sure that we can treat the per­son and also, most im­por­tantly, pre­vent the spread to your house­hold and com­mu­nity,” Jn Bap­tiste em­pha­sized.

In re­la­tion to Zika, Jn Bap­tiste re­it­er­ated that though the virus has been con­firmed in neigh­bour­ing Mar­tinique, there are no con­firmed cases of Zika Virus here in Saint Lucia. He stressed, how­ever, that the pos­si­bil­ity does ex­ist be­cause of the close travel ties be­tween Mar­tinique and Saint Lucia.

” It may seem mun­dane; it’s the same mes­sage: re­duce the breed­ing grounds for the Aedes Ae­gypti mos­quito. That’s the mos­quito which causes the spread of the Zika Virus.

“We want to cau­tion preg­nant women, es­pe­cially those in the first three to six months of preg­nancy, to avoid be­ing bit­ten by the Aedes Ae­gypti mos­quito . . . There is a pos­si­bil­ity of chil­dren be­ing born with small heads - what we call mi­cro­cephaly - be­cause of the Zika Virus and that’s why we would like to cau­tion preg­nant women to avoid be­ing bit­ten.”

The Na­tional Epi­demi­ol­o­gist ad­vo­cates sleep­ing un­der bed nets, us­ing re­pel­lents and wear­ing long pants and long-sleeved cloth­ing and what­ever else you need to do to pre­vent be­ing bit­ten by the mos­quito.

Na­tional Epi­demi­ol­o­gist Nahum Jn Bap­tiste.

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