Close watch for swine flu at ports

- Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer

Stabroek News - - Letters -

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.

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