Social distancing and public health measures have seen a vast reduction in the number of reported cases of respiratory diseases such as the common cold.
This according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Roshan Parasram, who told members of the media via a virtual press conference on Friday, that COVID-19 mitigation measures have made a noteworthy impact on the number of cases of acute respiratory illnesses. These illnesses he said include the likes of the common cold, influenza and gastroenteritis.
While a significant portion of the population is infected yearly, Parasram indicated that currently there is an average of 10 persons presenting symptoms per day, a number far below the national average.
“The number of febrile illnesses which is something that we call acute respiratory illness in this country has dropped significantly over the last two weeks. Acute respiratory illness is generally a disease that in this country generally affects anywhere between 100,000 and 120,000 people every single year. These are what we call the common cold. About one tenth of our population every year will have the common cold, some people once, some people more than once.”
“For the week before this week, we would have seen a total of 67 acute respiratory illnesses which is a surveillance category for the entire country. This is less than 10 people per day presenting...Over the last week as I said we have had 10 cases per day which is far below the national average.” he said.
Based on his estimate of 120,000 cases per year, the Express calculated that approximately 10,000 cases are typically presented in one month in Trinidad and Tobago, which averages 333 cases per day.
Parasram said that while fewer people have visited facilities in recent time, the many social distancing and public health measures such as the washing of hands and wearing of masks have contributed to the stark decreases observed.
“It's a combination of things, less people visiting the facilities as well as because we have through the month of April been more stringent in terms of public health guidelines, in washing of hands and sanitization of surfaces and all the other public health measures like wearing masks, we saw a significant drop in the number of acute respiratory illnesses,” he said
He also spoke of the COVID-19 dedicated hotline which was introduced in March as a means of providing certified information and aid from doctors. Parasram said that calls received were analyzed by the corporate communications department, which reported a drop in the number of calls in the past few weeks.
“There has been a great reduction in the number of calls overall, quite a large reduction we have been receiving. I can get access to the report if you all require it and go into further detail but generally speaking there has been a significant reduction in the number of calls over the last week or so. Calls are streamlined and are more related to febrile illness...There are significant decreases in those levels and the calls that we are getting in a reduced number is somewhat related to the decrease that we are seeing in those illnesses,” said Parasram.