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Apr 30, 2009

9 cases of H1N1 Influenza A under investigation

Story PictureThe Swine Flu now referred to as Influenza A(H-one-N-one)continues to spread globally. And in tonight’s newscast, we’ll have a series of stories on the outbreak. We start with a reported increase in the number of suspected cases. On Wednesday there were four and today at a press briefing, the Ministry of Health reported that there are now nine cases under investigation. These results are expected late tonight. Marion Ali was at the briefing this morning and has this report.

Marion Ali Reporting
As the outbreak threatens Belize, mass gatherings have been postponed and health officials are emphasizing the need to practice proper hygiene and to avoid catching the deadly Swine Flu.
On Wednesday officials said that they are sending samples to the Caribbean Epidemiological Centre or CAREC in Trinidad for testing, today a media report in that country clarified that CAREC cannot test for Swine Flu. But Dr. Paul Edwards with the Ministry of Health explained the procedure to quell any possible concerns.

Dr. Paul Edwards, Pandemic Expert
“We’ve sent the samples, they are there. There is a turn around time of six hours. What specifically can CAREC do? First of all, we are taking about a type A influenza. We are aware that there are different types of influenza: A, B and C. So they will screen initially for a type A. After that is confirmed now, they will screen for the seasonal influenza. Two results from there: it can be positive for that, that’s a testing of exclusion, positive for that, that is fine. If it is negative then that sample will be sent to CDC. Right now, only CDC and a laboratory in Canada have the capability to do two specific tests: which is a real time polymeric chain reaction or a viral culture. So that is exactly what is happening and that is right there. Mexico they have sent their samples through CDC.”

With nine cases now under investigation in Belize, the Ministry has also sent off more samples for testing. And while initial reports were that the first four cases of interest were from Belize City, Orange Walk and San Pedro, officials did not indicate where the second batch of cases originated. But they say while people need to practice proper hygiene, people also need not panic.

Dr. Paul Edwards
“Not everybody who goes to the health care system will be swine flu. Remember while swine flu is here all the other diseases continue to occur; especially when we talk about the seasonal flu. And that’s why it is important for people to go so that the experts then can do that examination, get that critical information and then be able to separate and then go from there.”

And while there is currently a limited supply of swabs for testing, health officials say that has no bearing on how many people are tested for Swine Flu.

Ethan Gough, Epidemiologist
“We have specific criteria for who we get specimens from because we don’t want to swab everybody because the swabs are a limited resource at this time and we don’t want to waste the swabs taking specimens from people who have regular influenza or who have any other respiratory infections that is not swine flu. It’s only the cases of interest that fit the criteria to elevate the level of suspicion.”

Dr. Paul Edwards
“Swabs have been distributed countrywide and I know for a fact that Karl Heusner has fifty. If there is a need for more then what we will do we will start pulling back from there, but at the same time, we have order already and we anticipate that those will come in shortly. That is not a limitation in relation to sending samples out. As well it must be critical for all of us to understand that it is not everybody who will be swabbed and sent away. It’s only those cases that fit the definition and as we go and we start confirming then what we do from a epidemiological stand point, we look at our case definition and those individuals that satisfy that criteria, we don’t have to send samples away for confirmation. Automatically if they fit that definition, they will be a part of.”

But how will authorities approach the situation as far as tourism goes?

Dr. Jorge Polanco, Deputy Dir. Of Health Services
“If there is a sick person on any cruise that sick person will, not be allowed to land in Belize. On the other hand, all the cruise ships have their own medical clinics. And on landing, they provide a report to the authorities including the public health inspector and any sick person identified there is not allowed to come out of the ship. In this case they will be very vigilant to ensure that the medical care personnel within the cruise ship complies with that.”

Some large companies are also doing their part in ensuring that their staff practice good hygiene as they themselves have provided masks and gloves for them to use on the job. Marion Ali reporting for News Five.

Persons who have questions, concerns or recommendations can contact the Ministry of Health at 629-5604. The Ministry of Health is also engaging the Belize Medical and Dental Association as they prepare for any eventuality.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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