A woman wearing a mask

PRECAUTION: A woman wearing a mask leaves the Son Espases University Hospital in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, yesterday, where a British man was diagnosed with coronavirus.

FORTY people have now died from the H1N1 influenza virus in Trinidad and Tobago. The Ministry of Health advised yesterday via its regular ‘flu’ update that the death toll had increased from 39 persons as of January 31.

While local and global concern burgeons as to the spread of the novel ‘Wuhan’ coronavirus, which up to yesterday had killed 910 people internationally, the ministry has reminded the population that the flu is present locally and should not be treated lightly.

This country has also held in place measures implemented a fortnight ago to prevent entry of the ‘Wuhan’ virus, a respiratory illness believed to have made a zoonotic (animal to human) transmission in China’s Wuhan meat markets.

On the local impact of the ‘flu’, the ministry stated as of Friday February 7, the cumulative number of vaccines administered to the public for this flu season was at 87,603.

The number of suspected influenza cases for the 2020 calendar year is now at 158, while the number of suspected cases for the 2019 calendar year was 3,854.

“The number of confirmed influenza deaths for the current flu season – 40,” the ministry said. An appeal has again gone out to the public to get vaccinated free of charge at district health centres. This is especially important for those considered at additional risk of complications from the flu — pregnant women, persons over the age 65, children between six months and five years, those with respiratory issues such as asthma, those with compromised immune systems and persons with chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus. The ministry has again reminded citizens that the vaccine poses no risk to these persons. The flu seasons typically runs from October to April but can extend to May.

Coronavirus precautions

On January 30, Cabinet took a decision to implement preventative measures at all local ports of entry to keep out the “novel coronavirus”.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh subsequently announced that as of that date, passengers originating in China, who are non-nationals of T&T, would be obligated to layover abroad for 14 days before being allowed entry into the country.

The Ministry included in its flu update yesterday that as of 6 a.m., Monday, February 10, the accumulated total number of flights screened was at 618. The accumulated total number of passengers and airline crew members screened was at 47,039, while there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus locally.

Proper hygiene remains the most effective weapon against the spread of the flu and like diseases.

Washing hands often with soap and water is preferable, while an alcohol-based hand rub may be used where soap and water are not available. Sanitise high-traffic surfaces or objects that may have been contaminated and avoid persons who are sick or impose self-isolation when sick.

Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing is also advised.

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