CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. May 1, 2009: Caribbean nations are on high alert even as the World Health Organization announced Thursday that cases from swine flu or influenza A (H1N1) infection had grown globally to 257 cases.
While there has been no identifiable cases of swine flu in the Caribbean, the region is taking a proactive stance. In the CARICOM nation of Belize, all major public weekend events have been cancelled while The Bahamas has quarantined a total of 10 students and teachers who returned from Mexico, the epicenter of the disease.
Grenada also quarantined two people who returned from Mexico but said yesterday tests are were negative, while Barbados` Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, confirmed that at least two local samples had been sent off to the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre in Trinidad and Tobago to be tested for the virus after an increased number of people with flu-like symptoms began seeking medical attention.
Belize`s Health Ministry also said they are awaiting tests on two suspected cases sent to the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre in Trinidad.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Tourism Organization`s interim director, Hugh Riley, urged travelers planning visits to the Caribbean to check the websites of individual member nations for screening procedures related to prevention of the swine flu. Riley, in a statement, added that the CTO will continue to monitor the global situation closely.
The WHO has raised the global alert level for the swine flu virus to five, just one short of the maximum. This means that there has been sustained human to human transmission in at least two countries and a pandemic is imminent.
Caribbean nationals and other travelers are being advised to heed simple health care instructions. If you are experiencing respiratory illness, avoid travel and contact your health care provider; wash your hands frequently to lessen the spread of respiratory illness; avoid close contact with people who are coughing or appear ill and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
Also, note that influenza viruses are not known to be transmissible to people through eating processed pork or other food products derived from pigs.
Symptoms of swine flu resemble seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The United States Government has reported 109 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death. Mexico has reported 97 confirmed human cases of infection, including seven deaths.
The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths: Austria (1), Canada (19), Germany (3), Israel (2), Netherlands (1), New Zealand (3), Spain (13), Switzerland (1) and the United Kingdom (8).