There are no reported cases of Influenza A H1N1, which
is commonly referred to as swine flu, in the British Virgin Islands.
However, the Ministry of Health and Social Development
is urging residents to engage in safe hygiene practices to help combat any
potential spread of the flu virus.
The advice comes against the backdrop of six reported
cases in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and four cases in Barbados, with one
death occurring as a result.
Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ronald Georges, who
specialises in epidemiology, says the Ministry has increased surveillance
efforts to enable early detection of potential cases and prevent the spread of
“We have not detected
any increase in influenza or respiratory symptom activity in the Virgin Islands
but given our proximity to countries which are experiencing cases we must
remain vigilant and proactive,” Dr. Georges stated.
He noted that the
surveillance work must be combined with vigilance and good hygiene practices on
the part of residents.
The Caribbean Public Health
Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) have identified
several safe hygiene practices that can be utilised to help reduce the risk of
transmission. These include covering your mouth with a handkerchief or using
your elbow when coughing or sneezing; safely disposing of used tissues; washing
hands with soap and water after coughing and sneezing and before and after meal
preparation, eating and using the toilet and using an alcohol-based sanitizer.
Dr. Georges encourages members
of the public to “practice good respiratory hygiene as recommended by CARPHA
and PAHO and seek assistance from a health professional for any severe
symptoms.” He also reminded health professionals to be “vigilant and complete
all reporting to the Ministry of Health Surveillance Division in a timely
manner to ensure that the Ministry has accurate information.”
According to CARPHA,
infected persons usually recover with one to two weeks. However, young
children, elderly persons and those with other serious medical conditions can
develop complications from the influenza infection which can then lead to
pneumonia and death.
In 2009, H1N1 was
identified as the most common influenza virus circulating in the region.
Responding to the current resurgence of the virus, the Caribbean Public Health
Agency advises improved monitoring by health ministries across the region.
The Ministry of Health and
Social Development is encouraging persons who experience flu-like symptoms to
immediately seek medical attention. Adequate supplies of medicine are in supply
at the Peebles Hospital Pharmacy to treat patients.