Watching out for the flu virus
By CAROL MATROO Sunday, January 13 2013
The influenza virus which is spreading like wildfire throughout the United States may pose a threat to Trinidad and Tobago if people who have the virus are allowed into the country, especially for the Carnival season.
The virulent influenza has spread to 47 of the 50 states in the US with 3,710 people hospitalised since October 1, 2012. So far, 20 children have died from complications arising from the flu. Statistics for deaths in adults have not yet been tallied.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report which stated deaths from pneumonia and flu were “slightly above the epidemic threshold,” with 7.3 percent of all deaths.
Family physician Dr Varma Deyalsingh said people should take precautions while around someone who was sneezing and coughing, and they should get a flu shot.
“If somebody sneezes on you and they have the influenza virus, sometimes it takes approximately seven to ten days before it will manifest. It would take a while before the virus could really build up in the system, and then you have the normal flu like symptoms like runny nose, fever, sore throat and joint pains,” Deyalsingh said.
“Government needs to see if they can get the new batch of vaccines and offer people that flu shot. The flu shot has never been part of our immunisation schedule, it is a voluntary thing. If somebody wants it, they will come to get it,” he said.
Deyalsingh said the biggest problem was tourists coming into the country for Carnival.
“We could check them for signs of that. When we had the bird flu going around, certain ports of entry would have had a checkpoint. When people were coming in, you ask them do you have fever, do you have runny nose, do you have a headache and then you could pull them aside, question them further and test them.
He noted that infected people travelling on airplanes posed a great threat to passengers and crew since the air within the cabin was recycled. If an infected person sneezed the droplets would eventually be inhaled by someone else. “I don’t know how feasible it is, but maybe people could walk with a face mask. Carry hand sanitiser, try not to touch any objects because it could transfer to anything you put in your mouth. At Carnival fetes they should have portable hand sanitisers in areas where people are collecting food
“Get enough sleep, rest, vitamins, enough nutrition so you could fight the virus even if you get it.
Take it seriously, don’t sneeze on people, exercise proper coughing hygiene--cough into a napkin, throw away the napkin, don’t use wash rags,” Deyalsingh said. Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said the most his ministry could do was work with people who were showing signs of the illness. He added that the airlines were supposed to monitor this latest development. Khan said they do have flu medication on stock which they were checking at this time.