Swine flu deaths

Newsday yesterday reported that two men, one aged 30 years and one aged 42 years, died, after both experienced great difficulty breathing.

The men were reportedly from Penal and Princes Town. In addition Newsday reported that a woman from Princes Town has died in circumstances which suggest that she too was a victim of H1N1.

We lament the deaths of the three victims. We also wonder what these deaths may or may not portend for the rest of us?

The deaths come after several months of scares with several schools being closed temporarily while suspected cases were investigated. All of this comes against a backdrop of some 158 confirmed cases of H1N1 in the country to date, according to Newsday reports yesterday.

Reports suggest that the United States has had over 500 deaths from H1N1, amid thousands of cases of infection, in what is clearly a global pandemic.

We consider that the Ministry of Health had since last June run a very responsible campaign of public awareness of the virus, informing people how to avoid getting infected. We recall that their advice had been that citizens should practice good cough etiquette (coughing or sneezing into their elbow or a tissue) and should wash hands regularly. In addition, we urge people to stay home if they are ill, and to take the normal precautions they would take to combat the common cold virus such as taking vitamin C, drinking lots of fluids and resting.

What is clear is that while many other events locally and globally had pushed H1N1 off of the news headlines, these two deaths locally now mean that both the authorities and individual citizens now need to get back into a mode of alertness about this virus.

For example, workplaces must supply hand-sanitisers at their front desks, and schools must ensure their pupils all regularly wash their hands with soap and water.

Further given reports that the two victims had waited until their condition was too far gone to be helped medically, we really urge anyone with H1N1 symptoms — especially if they have been in contact with anyone who had recently travelled abroad — to contact their local health clinic at first sign of illness.

In addition, the Ministry should investigate whether there is any hindrance to healthcare at Princes Town and Penal where the victims were from that might have impeded them seeking healthcare earlier. Do these areas need extra resources?

The Ministry must keep the population abreast of the distribution of Tamiflu medicine and of the promised vaccines against H1N1 said to be due next month.

Citizens must be particularly alert, given the likelihood that as the northern hemisphere cools into autumn/winter, that region sees a resurgence in H1N1 cases, that our travelling public need heed.

We would like to endorse the words of Health Minister Jerry Narace who said there is no need to panic but there is cause for concern.


"Swine flu deaths"

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