Guyana, other countries guarding against H1N1 – CMO

─ Port officials trained to identify symptoms and refer tourists to treatment for H1N1

─ As new cases reported in Caribbean region

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Port officials including Port Health Officers working at ports of entries in Guyana were trained as part of measures to tackle any possible cases of H1N1 influenza (swine flu) borne by travellers entering Guyana.

This is according to Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud who said that Guyana, along with other Caribbean countries, is embarking on strict measures and efforts to prevent the infection from taking root in the country.

Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud.

“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 including customs, immigration and even operators of the airline service, ferry service and other conveyances, to highlight to them the need to be vigilant.”

Dr. Persaud indicated that there have been reports of positive H1N1 cases in the Caribbean region.

H1N1 is a flu virus commonly referred to as swine flu. The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes it as the Influenza A (H1N1) virus which emerged in 2009. This flu virus appeared in the United States during that year and swept the globe thereafter. There have been some amounts of mortality as a result of the virus.

Since then, countries have been ensuring that their health systems are on guard against the scourge.

Along with training for port officials, there is the assurance that additional medical human resource has been placed at CJIA to facilitate monitoring. The CJIA records the highest number of arrivals with persons coming from all over the world including districts where the H1N1 virus is known to be active.

“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 24hr period and any person identified with symptoms suggestive.”

Even further, the CMO explained that there is a basic responsibility on commercial flight attendants to report to port health officials any observations of symptoms relating to serious illnesses.

“Each arriving commercial flight is supposed to complete a general flight declaration that would indicate to us if there are any passengers on board who are coughing excessively, who experience fever during flight or any other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea or anything unusual that may occur during the flight. Those forms are reviewed by a port health officer.”

In the event of identifying a person entering Guyana with severe flu symptoms, they are attended to by a port health official. At CJIA, the doctor may administer initial medication before referring the patient to the nearest hospital for further medical care and screening.

For those at Moleson Creek, they are to be immediately referred to the Skeldon Hospital while those at the Guyana-Brazil, Lethem border are to be quickly referred to the Lethem Regional hospital.

Monitoring and surveillance for H1N1 and other communicable illnesses have been undertaken and over the last two years, samples were taken at the GPHC to routinely determine for the presence of the virus in Guyana. Since H1N1’s initial outbreak in 2009, there has not been any active transmission of the infection.

“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.”

To this end, persons in Guyana are asked to adopt hygienic practices which can prevent the cold or flu. This includes hand washing and sanitizing which is often taken for granted.

Meanwhile, persons with developing respiratory abnormalities are asked to see a licensed medical physician for treatment. Others with flu-like symptoms are also advised to seek outpatient medical care as soon as possible.

Upon examining a person who presents symptoms of H1N1 a doctor or any health specialist, capable of retrieving samples, would request that samples be taken as they see fit.

“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,” Dr. Persaud noted.

By: Delicia Haynes.

Images: Giovanni Gajie.

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Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. We urge citizens to practice good hygiene and social or physical distancing also adhere to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, Guyana.