Speaking with Newsday yesterday evening by telephone, Khan stressed the word “suspected,” saying it usually takes “a couple of days” to determine whether or not H1N1, commonly referred to as Swine Flu, was responsible for the “acute respiratory distress syndrome present in these two deaths”.
“Although you have positive stereotypes, that does not mean H1N1 was the cause, which is why these deaths are currently listed as ‘suspected’,” Khan said.
Earlier in the day, he made no mention of these suspected H1N1 cases while speaking at the post- Cabinet press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.
Khan did however state there are no cases of bird flu in Trinidad and Tobago at this time. He then confirmed six new cases of H1N1 — the first publically reported cases since that virus was confirmed in this country back in 2010.
The Health Minister told reporters, “We do not have any bird flu in Trinidad and Tobago. There is no avian influenza stereotype. What we do have is H1N1 (swine flu) and that has been with us for the last three years.
Khan advised members of the public who experience symptoms such as high fever, and common cold symptoms which extend to having chest problems to seek medical attention. He also said high-risk groups susceptible to being affected by the virus should be immunised. These include: immuno-compromised persons and obese persons (for whom an increased probability of susceptibility has been noted).
Khan said three of the six cases were treated at the San Fernando General Hospital, one at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex and two are “unlabelled”. He said vaccines are available at health centres but only recommended those at risk to seek these out, saying it was not recommended that there be mass vaccination for this disease. Sport Minister Anil Roberts asked Khan to explain what he meant by chest problems.
“I would like to ask the Minister of Health a question please,” he said. “Being asthmatic myself, you mentioned chest pains. Can you give us a more detailed description of what sort of sensation the citizen would be feeling with this chest tightness? Just so that we do not mistake it with normal asthma symptoms.”
Khan replied, “If you do have a sore throat, that is a significant symptom. If you do have a high fever, sore throat, and also any chest discomfort then you should go straight to an emergency medical health facility.”