– PAHO Country Rep.
Country Representative for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Kathleen Israel has said that the Caribbean is very lucky to have not recorded any case of the H1N1 virus (Swine Flu) thus far, but stressed that it is only a matter of time before this changes.
She explained that this is possible given the fact that the Caribbean is geographically located in a body of water and since there is a great deal of international travel to and fro between territories, the likelihood of its being brought to these parts is inevitable.
Dr. Israel was at the time delivering remarks at the opening of the Health Services Pandemic Preparedness Course which was held on Tuesday last at Regency Suites, Hadfield Street, Georgetown.
The course was held as part of the International Health Regulations and Pandemic Influenza Activities being hosted by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with PAHO.
The workshop was aimed at providing the participants with the tools to quickly identify any such cases and to manage and contain any outbreak.
Dr. Israel noted that the forum was taking place in the context of H1N1 and while the international media has been speculating that there is too much of hype about infectious conditions, the important thing to note is that many of them originate from animals.
She explained that many of the infections affect the respiratory system of the animals and because they are transmitted by that means, there is a high risk of transmission to humans, and in this regard, there must be increased vigilance.
She urged the participants to monitor the situation carefully and be on the alert for any case of Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI).
“The responsibility is a big one. We have to not only be alert to any such case but we have to report any such case, just in the event there are cases you have never seen before and in the context of the international health regulation, we are duty bound to report any such cases.”
She noted that health professionals cannot afford to be complacent as they need to be on the alert and to detect early any influenza case, which should be carefully monitored.
“This is very timely, because the tools that you are exposed to in this workshop will prepare you to effectively monitor and detect early any cases of SARI, whether it’s caused by H1N1 or by H5N1 or any other virus.”
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud noted that so far, more than 40 countries have reported the presence of the H1N1 virus and there are more than 8,000 confirmed cases of H1N1 as 76 deaths have already been confirmed.
He added that there are various influenza viruses, as it is a common occurrence worldwide. In the United States, he said that there are more than 36,000 deaths annually due to influenza.
The workshop was facilitated by Ms. Lealou Reballos from Caribbean Programme Coordination (CPC) and Dr. James Goodman, Dobbinsm Consultant on Immunization and Surveillance, Caribbean Epidemiology Center (CAREC).
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