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Local vigilance high for H1N1 virus as WHO updates situation to pandemic

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Contact: Shannon Lebourne


Friday, 12 June 2009 - Health experts are keeping up their vigilance on the H1N1 virus which is also known as the Swine Flu.  On Thursday June 11th the situation was upgraded to a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), which means the influenza virus, new to humans, is spreading and causing disease in many parts of the world.


Health Minister Hon. Dr Keith Mondesir said although there are no reported cases of the H1N1 virus on Saint Lucia, health officials are heightening their efforts at safeguarding the population if the virus reaches local shores.


“The Prime Minister and his Cabinet have met with the National Influenza Committee. Saint Lucia is presently in disaster response mode, with a multi-sectoral effort led by NEMO and guided by the Ministry of Health. We have also stepped-up our surveillance in order to identify any cases of the disease in St. Lucia. We have increased surveillance for H1N1 at schools, hotels, health facilities and ports of entry. We have, and continue to sensitize our health care workers and other front line workers like Fire, customs and immigration officers, agricultural officers and hotel nurses and managers,” Dr Mondesir added.


To date, there have been over 100 reported cases of H1N1 virus across the Caribbean, with neighbouring countries of Dominica, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago recording cases. In Saint Lucia, a cruise vessel was turned away from Port Castries last week when it was reported that some passengers possessed the flu like symptoms.


“If you have travelled to a country with confirmed cases of H1N1 flu within the last seven days, or if you have had close contact with someone who has been in an affected country in the last seven days, and are experiencing flu-like symptoms, you should visit a medical practitioner at any health centre, hospital or private clinic.” The Ministry of Health has supplies which are needed to test for and treat the disease. A rapid test for Influenza-A, can be done in St. Lucia and samples are then sent to CAREC in Trinidad for confirmation” said Dr Mondesir, who is also Minister for Wellness, Human Services, Family Affairs, Gender Relations and National Mobilisation.


Dr. Mondesir said the country is continuing to increase its stock of medication to deal with any eventuality.  Health experts around the world are monitoring the disease and say a vaccine to prevent the H1N1 virus is currently being produced and should be available within the next few months.

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