MIN. OF HEALTH CONCERNED ABOUT PRESENCE OF H1N1 IN REGION

The Ministry of Health has confirmed the presence of the H1N1 virus in the region but could not confirm its presence in St. Lucia. The revelation follows the deaths of two males recently which have been linked to respiratory illnesses. The H1N1 virus or swine flu is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. It is caused by the H1N1 influenza virus.

The H1N1 virus is now considered a regular flu virus. It is one of the three viruses included in the regular seasonal flu vaccine.

The two male individuals according to the Ministry of Health showed  respiratory symptoms initially and died in less than a week. In one case the individual died before reaching the health facility. Although Officials await  results of tests conducted overseas preliminary tests done here suggest that the two patients suffered from respiratory conditions.  In February the Ministry sent out a  release  alerting the public of an  increase in number of cases of respiratory illness  which is unusual for this time of year. This pattern is not unique to St. Lucia. It also showed up in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. To local authorities  it appears that the H1N1 virus or swine  flu as it is most commonly called is  circulating at high levels in the region. However  Authorities cannot confirm its presence in St. Lucia

The virus affects persons of  all age groups but persons  who are  most at risk include  the elderly, the very young, pregnant women and persons with medical conditions. Regarding  the  two deaths the  individuals had no known history of  chronic illness. Most cases of respiratory illness according to the Ministry are mild and are most prevalent  in the south of the island. The Ministry  could not pinpoint a reason for this

According to the Ministry the  post mortem exam  indicated that in the two cases  the major organs affected were the lungs  in keeping with respiratory conditions although  other conditions like leptospirosis show similar symptoms. The Ministry is urging the public to take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the flu such as  covering their  cough  and frequent washing of the hands as respiratory illnesses  are transmitted through  droplets

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