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Oct 10, 2013

Healthy Living looks at the flu season

If you are wondering about the sniffing taking place in offices, homes and public places, it is safe to say that we are right in the midst of the flu season. According to the medical experts, the number of persons who will have flu symptoms will increase from September to March. Healthy Living has a good dose of information about the flu season. 

 

Dr. Victor Rosado, Pediatrician

“We’ve been hearing of flu season for some years now and I think five, seven, years ago we use to think of flu season being something in the foreign countries. However, it has become clear that around September, we start seeing increased respiratory tract illness.”

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Doctor Victor Rosado is a pediatrician at the Belize Medical Associates; he speaks about the increase he sees in patients with flu symptoms between the months of September to March.

 

Victor Rosado

Dr. Victor Rosado

“Ten years ago when we use to talk about flu, people would say that it is an American thing and this is Belize—we don’t have winters; we have raining season and dry season. But like I said, it is quite obvious, any physician come September, early October, we start to see an increase in respiratory tract illnesses.  In 2009 we had a worldwide scare with what was initially swine flu and then classified by the World Health Organization as H1N1. At that time, I think all the countries in the world started to prepare for what should have been a flu pandemic. And now what has happened is that every year countries have tried to adapt into their program flu vaccines, getting prepared for flu, flu season and trying to educate the populace on preventing flu.”

 

The trends for flu season are similar in the rest of the Caribbean.  Of recent, Countries in the Caribbean like Trinidad, St Vincent & the Grenadines and Dominica have confirmed cases of H1N1; the influenza which caused a worldwide health scare in 2009. The H1N1 pandemic was declared over by the WHO in 2010. Now, the seasonal flu vaccines offer protection from the H1N1 virus and other seasonal influenza viruses.

 

Dr. Victor Rosado

“You need to educate public; you need to make them aware that it is a real threat from a public or government point of view. We need to have resources available, we need to have diagnostic facilities, we need to have treatment. We have high risk patients like pregnant women and children that will sometime need anti-viral. So we need to have medication available—both in the public and private sector. As recently as two months ago there were eight deaths in the Dominican Republic and four of the patients were pregnant women and that has caused a scare in the Caribbean a few weeks ago. So it is a threat and governments and public health systems need to be aware of that and need to prepare.”

 

Now, history will tell you that in the past it was not uncommon for pandemics to kill thousands of people. However, modern medicine, research and statistical data have made a great impact on our progression from the days of deadly pandemics. According to Dr Rosado, one of our main setbacks in Belize is the lack of timely data on local trends.

 

Dr. Victor Rosado

“I think in the year 2013, Marleni, we cannot continue with an approach of hear no evil, see no evil. All the countries in the world, viruses do not see borders. And so if we see that Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala have an outbreak and bad year with dengue, then more than likely Belize will be affected by dengue. If we see countries in the Caribbean having thirty percent of their flu being reported as H1N1, then Belize more than likely will follow that same trend. And so us not having the data really does not mean that it is not existent. It is there, it is just that it is not being produced in a timely manner and to a certain extent it is not being recorded. If we see we that we have control the four years and then on the fifth year we have three hundred percent more cases, then only then will you be able to say let’s check our chemical; let’s test our mosquitoes to see if they are resistant to the chemicals that we are using. It is the same thing with the flu. That is how you can prepare and that actually is how the vaccines are prepared. Medicine is based on data. Viruses, bacteria tend to change over a period of time. And we need to change our treatment plan, we need to change our approach based on that data.”

 

The ministry of Health has an established Belize Health Information System which records information from all public health institutions; and, private still submit written reports of specific illnesses.

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