Close watch for swine flu at ports
- Chief Medical Officer
In a bid to prevent an outbreak of the H1N1 virus (swine flu) in Guyana, port officials including Port Health Officers have been trained to tackle any possible cases in travellers entering Guyana, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Public Health Dr. Shamdeo Persaud says.
The pronouncement was made through a Department of Public Information (DPI) report last Wednesday, which stated that Persaud pointed out that not only Guyana, but other Caribbean countries are embarking on strict measures and efforts to prevent the infection from taking root.
The Trinidad Guardian reported on Saturday that Trinidadian Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said that there is an outbreak of swine flu in the country, especially in the southern part where there have been at least three reported deaths.
“At the points of entries - that means the two airports, the border crossings at Moleson Creek and Lethem, we just completed a round of training for all our port officials, not only port health (but) customs, immigration and even operators of the airline service, ferry service and other conveyances, to highlight to them the need to be vigilant,” the report quoted Persaud as saying.
It added that along with training for the port officials, more personnel have been placed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri to facilitate the monitoring of incoming passengers.
“We usually don’t have enough persons to monitor all the flights, especially at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport so, we recently added a doctor along with two Medical Extension officers [Medex] and a port health officer and we are even looking for one additional person so we can cover the entire 24-hour period and any person identified with symptoms suggestive,” added.
The report also stated that Persaud said that it is also the responsibility of commercial flight attendants to report to port health officials any observations of symptoms relating to serious illness. He also noted that each incoming commercial flight is supposed to complete a general declaration that would indicate if there are any passengers on board who are coughing excessively, experienced fever during the flight or any other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea and any other unusual behaviour.
Those forms are then reviewed by a port health officer and in the event of a person being identified with severe flu symptoms they are attended to by a port health official, and at CJIA the doctor would administer initial medication Persaud before referring the patient to the nearest hospital for further medical care and screening.
For those arriving in the country at Moleson Creek, they will be immediately referred to the Skeldon Hospital while those at the GuyanaBrazil, Lethem border will be referred to the Lethem Regional Hospital.
“That, of course, doesn’t mean that we don’t have cases, but at least for those samples that were tested, we have not detected any positive H1N1 among the flu cases in Guyana. So, we have been collecting samples and monitoring persons with Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) symptoms, so the surveillance team will continue with this,” Persaud was quoted as saying.
The report also said that he noted that persons in the country are being implored to adopt hygienic practices that can prevent a cold or flu, which includes the washing and sanitising of the hands that is often taken for granted.
Additionally, persons with respiratory abnormalities are asked to see a licensed medial physician for treatment and others with flu-like symptoms are also advised to seek outpatient medical care as soon as possible.
“I am also encouraging the taking of some samples, so we could know if H1N1 is in the mix of other flu viruses and respiratory illnesses and to determine how we respond to it,” Persaud added.
Stabroek News tried to contact Persaud yesterday to ascertain whether there are vaccines for the flu in the country. However, attempts to contact him were futile.