(Trinidad Express) – THE H1N1 influenza virus, commonly known as “swine flu”, has claimed its 39th local victim for the season.
In its flu update issued yesterday, the Ministry of Health advised of the increase in the toll and continued to appeal to the population to access free vaccines at district health centres.
As at January 10, the death toll had stood at 38 persons, while the new toll reflects confirmed influenza deaths up to January 17.
As of the latter date, the cumulative number of vaccines administered to the public for this flu season was at 67,867, compared to 60,256 on January 10.
The number of suspected influenza cases for the 2020 calendar year, also as of Friday January 17, stood at 29 cases, up from 17.
The number of suspected influenza cases for the 2019 calendar year was 3,755 persons.
The Ministry continues to engage in an aggressive campaign to increase vaccination rates and again reminds the population that the vaccine is considered safe, even for persons within “at-risk” groups.
These include pregnant women, persons with chronic illnesses such as Diabetes Mellitus, those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma and compromised immune systems, persons over the age of 65, and children aged six months to five years.
Health care workers and those in essential services are also encouraged to get the flu vaccine.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has also advised that Trinidad and Tobago need not panic over the so-called “Wuhan virus” emerging out of that district in China, a deadly respiratory illness believed to be a case of (zoonotic) transmission from animals to humans.
However, Deyalsingh said the Ministry will go forth with an abundance of caution and he has given instructions for added precaution at Piarco International Airport and on flights arriving from that district.
Deyalsingh said there will be changes by tomorrow to forms that pilots are obligated to complete, which will now require them to report an incident on board an aircraft of passengers who have suddenly fallen ill and are presenting with a fever.
Any passenger suspected of the virus would be checked on at the airport by a country medical officer, with isolation capacities ready at Caura Chest Hospital and at the new College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTATT) building in Port of Spain.
Deyalsingh said the Ministry is also working with the Airports Authority and, starting today, thermal scanners will be employed at the airport for flights arriving from Asia.
Asking citizens not to panic, Deyalsingh said vigilance was also being stepped up at the ports, including screening.
“If, in the unlikely event that we do have a person coming down with symptoms which are similar to what is being experienced in Asia, we have the capacity to isolate and treat with it,” said the Minister.
Deyalsingh said he will be visiting the airport on Thursday to ensure that all precautions are in place and working and to see whether more caution is needed.
“But at this point, there is no need for panic,” he said, though noting that while the virus appears to be isolated to parts of Asia at this time, caution was still being taken as some possibility had appeared of human-to-human transmission.