The Sunday Leader

Sri Lankans Warned About H1N1 Virus

By Nirmala Kannangara

Pregnant mothers, children under two years of age and elders above 65 years and those who have chronic diseases are being advised to take medication immediately if they get symptoms such as body aches, cough, sore throat, flue, headache, running nose and diarrhoea. These can be the symptoms of seasonal flue caused by the H1N1 virus, Senior Registrar Epidemiology Unit Dr Athula Liyanapathirana cautioned the public.

According to Dr Liyanapathirana, seasonal influenza is a flue like illness limited to infected people, but added that a small percentage of people may get severe outcomes when they contract it. “Even though the people in the high risk category may not show influenza symptoms; they are advised to avoid unnecessary travel, not to be at public places and not to use public transportation,” Dr Liyanapathirana said.

The H1N1 virus causes the disease and 40 deaths have been reported island-wide by last week Thursday morning. Dr Liyanapathirana said 11 deaths have been reported from the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital alone.

Pregnant mothers with suspected influenza symptoms should be referred to specialist care immediately and The H1N1 infleunza spreads seasonally especially during May, June and July and again during November and December

“That does not mean all the deaths are from Galle as people from other districts such as Hambantota and even Kalutara get treatment from the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital. Of the casualties, 25% are pregnant mothers. Most of the patients are elderly and those with a compromised immune system due to their old age and chronic diseases,” Dr Liyanapathirana added.

He noted that the patients’ failure to seek treatment early has resulted in their deaths. Pregnant women with flu like symptoms should seek medical treatment immediately while children under 2 years of age and people above 65 years must see a doctor within 48 hours, Dr Liyanapathirana said.

“Patients that do not belong to high risk groups can undergo home care. However those patients who have complicated or progressive illness and contracted influenza should admit to hospitals immediately to have antiviral treatments,” Dr Liyanapathirana added.

He further said that pregnant mothers with suspected influenza symptoms should be referred to specialist care immediately. According to Dr Liyanapathirana, all patients should seek medical attention if they develop any signs of progressive disease or if they have not recovered 72 hours of the onset of the symptoms after taking treatments.

However Dr Liyanapathirana said that it is important to eliminate people’s unnecessary fear since this H1N1 influenza is not pandemic like bird flue or swine flue. “If this is pandemic the virus spreads rapidly.

The H1N1 infleunza spreads seasonally especially during May, June and July and again during November and December.

Dr Liyanapathirana further advised people to cover mouth and nose when they are coughing or sneezing with tissues or handkerchief or their own forearms and to clean the palms thereafter.

“We warn people not to cover their nose and mouth with their palms when coughing or sneezing as the respiratory secretions can spread through the palms. Wash the hands and palms with soap and water and if the palms are visibly dirty, use running water to wash the hands. It is better to use alcohol based hand rubs if available to clean the palms and hands,” Dr Liyanapatirana claimed.

Meanwhile, the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea has caused concern among their family members in Sri Lanka. According to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) statistics, about 25, 000 Sri Lankans are working in South Korea but the bureau claim that none have been infected with MERS virus to date.

SLBFE Media Spokesman said that the South Korean Health Ministry was taking maximum measures to curb the spread of the disease and the families of the Sri Lankan workers should not get panicked as their loved ones are being well looked after. “The Sri Lankans living there are being well looked after and have been advised not to visit places where this disease is spreading to avoid contracting the illness,” Media Spokesman said.

He further said that the quarantine health desk at the arrival lounge at the Colombo International Airport is alert for the travelers who arrive here from South Korea and added that although the airport medical staff is on alert 24 hours, the World Health Organization (WHO) is yet to issue alarm signals in this regard. Meanwhile Dr Liyanapathirana said that there was no cause to get alarmed as the chances of the disease entering the country is remote. Thousands of travelers entered Sri Lanka at the height of the spread of MERS virus in the Middle East in 2012.


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