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New Flu Virus (swine flu) with Pandemic Potential

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On the evening of Friday April 24, 2009 CAREC (the Caribbean Epidemiological Center) called on Caribbean countries to begin immediate mobilization of key personnel to ensure that the region is ready to deal with possible cases of a new flu virus which has been reported in Mexico and parts of the United States.


The World Health Organization reports that more than 1,000 people have been sickened in Mexico, with over 20 deaths confirmed as being due to a new flu virus, H1N1. Similar reports indicate that 8 people were confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to have swine flu in the United States in California and Texas and more recently Kansas and possibly New York.


This new flu virus is a combination virus. It has components of different types of flu which can affect birds, swine (pig) and humans. It is of concern as it seems to be spread from one infected person to another, in much the same way that the “common cold” is spread.


At this point in time, the World Health Organization cannot say that other countries of the world will be affected, but the possibility exists.


On Saturday April 25, 2009 at 10 am, the Ministry of Health spearheaded a high level gathering of  personnel at NEMO’s headquarters in Bisee to asses the situation, sensitize key sectors, review the previously formed National Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan and mobilize resources in anticipation of this threat.


Presently, there are no known cases of this new flu virus in Saint Lucia. However, according to Senior Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health Dr. Merlene Fredericks, “we should be concerned as this virus has the potential, if it enters St. Lucia, to spread from person to person and as a result, we must be on our guard.”


Chief Veterinarian in the Ministry of Agriculture Dr. George Joseph notes that “pork and is safe to eat once properly cooked.”


Meantime, the Ministry of Health is advising saint Lucians to take the following precautions:

  • If you have recently travelled from Mexico, California, Texas or other affected parts of the United States and you are currently suffering from cough, running nose, fever or other flu like symptoms, please seek medical assessment.
  • All persons: cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with persons who are suffering from flu like symptoms. Influenza is spread mainly from person-to-person when persons breath in droplets released by others who cough or sneeze.
  • If you get sick with cough, running nose, chills and fever, sore throat, vomiting or diarrhoea, , stay away from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. Seek medical attention.  
  • All medical practitioners should remain vigilant for signs of this disease.
  • The National Emergency Management Organization in collaboration other government agencies will provide timely updates on this situation.
  • For more information please call the Epidemiology unit at (758) 468-5317 or (758) 451-9039 or (758) 468-5323 or (758) 468-5300 during work hours and (758) 487-4215 during out of office hours.

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