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TT gets vaccines for swine flu virus

Saturday, October 5 2013

Trinidad and Tobago has received 60,000 vaccines for the H1N1 (swine flu) virus and the Ministry of Health has ordered another quantity, according to an official of the Port-of-Spain office of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).

The vaccines, mainly for frontline workers in the health sector and high-risk persons, were delivered in September PAHO Adviser in Family Matters, Dr Yitades Gebre, yesterday told Newsday.

Asked how many more were ordered, Gebre said that procurement practices did not allow for him to make that disclosure.

Generally, orders for the vaccines are placed in January, and are manufactured based on requests Gebre said adding that additional vaccines are produced and procured based on needs and consumption.

The vaccines are generally manufactured in July for the influenza season which starts with the North American autumn, and continues right through to the spring months.

Manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation at Ministry of Health, Gwendolyn Snaggs said: “We started doing some distribution today. By next week all of the health centres should have the vaccine available but the vaccine is not going to be made available to every member of the public. There are guidelines that the Ministry of Health has issued.”

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan told the media at a press conference on Thursday morning that the Ministry of Health has adequate medication for management of patients and adequate vaccination for prevention.

“There should not be a run on vaccinations,”he said, “just the population of high-risk persons should be vaccinated.” Persons who exhibit symptoms and signs of the virus, but do not belong to the high risk group, Khan said, will be vaccinated as well.

The vaccine will be made available through the expanded programme for immunisation and medical centres.

High risk persons will include persons over 65 years, under five years, the obese, pregnant, asthmatic, those receiving chemotherapy, persons with chronic lung diseases or is a transplant patient, and smokers with emphysema are advised to get vaccinated.

On Thursday evening, Khan told Newsday that there were two suspected cases of H1N1 related deaths in Trinidad. He confirmed six new cases since the first reported cases were disclosed in 2010. Three of the six cases were treated at the San Fernando General Hospital, one at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex and two were “unlabelled.” He said the fact that there were deaths did not mean that the health system had failed.

“They were in intensive care. They got the maximum management that was possible and in respiratory illnesses, with risk factors, you run the risk of having acute respiratory distress syndrome and that could happen to anyone.” Meanwhile, in a release, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr C James Hospedales, has confirmed that Influenza A (H5N1), commonly referred to as “avian influenza” or “bird flu” has not been detected in the Caribbean. Although human infection with this virus is rare, sporadic cases of human infection have been reported outside of the Caribbean. Reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) show Indonesia, Vietnam and Egypt as having reported the highest number of human H5N1 cases to date.

However, seasonal influenza (or flu), which affects many thousands of people in the Caribbean each year, is an infectious respiratory disease that is associated with the circulation of one or more of three influenza viruses A, B or less commonly type C. Influenza viruses A and B cause seasonal epidemics yearly during autumn and winter in temperate regions.

In some tropical countries, CARPHA said influenza viruses circulate throughout the year with one or two peaks during rainy seasons. Worldwide, annual epidemics can result in about three to five million cases of severe illness, and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths. Most deaths associated with influenza occur among people age 65 or older.

In the Caribbean, the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus is the most commonly identified seasonal flu virus circulating in the region and therefore this is not an unexpected finding.

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