St. Kitts – Nevis Citizens Need Not Panic
Subject: Swine Flu
April 27, 2009
The Ministries of Health (MoH) in St. Kitts and Nevis wish to advise the general public that the outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico and the USA has been closely monitored since Thursday 23rd April. The following information is provided for the guidance:
About Swine Flu
1. Swine Flu is an Influenza type A virus classified H1N1 (H5N1 is bird flu) according to its genetic composition. The virus contains of genes from birds, pigs and humans.
2. International travel is causing cross-border spread.
3. The Swine Flu virus is spread from person-to-person by coughing and sneezing. Species jump from pigs to humans and humans to pigs occurs via contact with droplets from the noses and mouth of infected pigs and persons. Therefore, the virus is airborne; there is no spread via water or food.
4. Symptoms of Swine Flu are similar to Seasonal Influenza that normally occurs every year. Affected persons may experience fever, severe cough, difficulty breathing and weakness indicating an infection of the lower windpipes and the lungs.
5. “Common Cold” is often confused with and called “the Flu”. Common Cold is caused by many viruses that are not influenza. Symptoms of Common Cold include mild fever, runny nose, stuffy nose, throat ache and cough. Common Cold viruses do not affect the lungs therefore there is no difficulty breathing.
Global Surveillance, Local Situation & Preparedness
6. The World Health Organization has declared that Swine Flu has “pandemic potential” meaning that global spread is possible and all countries have been alerted. The Pandemic Alert as of Friday 24th was at Level 3 (on a 6 point scale) meaning clusters of human-to-human transmission of a new virus.
7. The Health Sector of St. Kitts and Nevis is part of the global network. Personnel and supplies have been mobilized and placed on an advanced stage of readiness.
8. As of the time of writing, no cases of Swine Flu have been reported in St. Kitts and Nevis.
9. To limit the entry of Swine Flu, surveillance has been increased at all official ports of entry ““ air and sea. A passenger check is in place. Captains of aircraft and ships are required to report the presence of sick passengers and crew to the Port Health officer. Sick travelers are issued specific instructions to prevent their contact with the general public.
10. Surveillance has also been stepped up in Community Health Centers, Emergency Rooms and Private Doctor Offices. In the event of a case, practitioners will follow case treatment guidance and file a report to the Ministry of Health via existing case notification channels.
11. Senior Managers of health facilities are putting patient treatment measures in place in the hospitals and community health centers.
Generally, the surveillance approach to Swine Flu is identical to that which applied to SARS and Dengue Fever. The Ministry of Health is in constant contact with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) which is the hemispheric arm of WHO. PAHO has a Rapid Response Team mobilized as well as stockpiles of supplies. The local medication needs have been calculated based on an assessment of a worst case scenario. The need has been communicated to PAHO.
Role of the Public
Deaths linked to Swine Flu have been reported via the media. The Ministry of Health is aware that the Swine Flu outbreak is a major concern. The cooperation of public is solicited as follows:
1. Knowledge is power. Pay no attention to rumour and sensational reporting. There is no need to panic.
2. The person-to-person spread of Swine Flu can be prevented by simple hygiene measures. Persons are requested to gather the family to discuss and inculcate the following;
a. When coughing and sneezing, every person must cover their nose and mouth with an absorbent tissue or their hands, then
b. Place the tissue in a trash receptacle
c. Wash the hands and face with soap and water
d. Dry the hands and face with a dry towel.
e. Spitting out of vehicles and spitting on the streets is unhygienic. Secretions must be disposed of via the toilet, wash basin or covered over by lots of dirt to prevent insects from gaining contact.
3. There is no need for every person with fever to rush to hospital of clinic. Persons with uncomplicated fever and cough may be successfully managed at home with rest, fluids, nutritious food and Paracetamol. Health Center staff or personal physicians may be called via telephone for guidance.
4. Persons with flu symptoms who appear to be weak, lethargic or who are having difficulty breathing must seek medical attention.
There is Good News
5. Food is Medicine and Medicine is food.
a. Breast milk is protective; nursing mothers should continue breast feeding.
b. Good nutrition is protective and maintained through the daily consumption of vegetables, provisions and fruits. The vitamins and minerals in fresh, local produce help to boost the body’s immune system and fight off influenza and other viruses.
6. A well hydrated body works better. Keep the body well hydrated by drinking water with each meal and at other times during the day.
7. Other immune boosting habits include
a. Adequate amounts of rest
i. For adults – 6 to 8 hours per day
ii. For children – 10 to 12 hours per day
i. Brisk walking for one (1) hour is an excellent starting program
ii. Sea bathing is also stress reducing
c. Maintain a positive mental attitude
d. Attend to your spiritual health
8. Avoid immune depressing habits such as
a. Consuming excess alcohol and caffeine
b. Eating on the go and skipping meals
c. Gluttony (over-eating leading to recurring indigestion and constipation)
d. Consuming food that is high in fat, salt and chemical additives
e. Sleep deprivation
Further information and advice is available from community health centers and personal physicians. Health authorities such as the Ministry of Health, PAHO/WHO and health authorities in other countries will continually update the public with appropriate and useable information. The websites of the PAHO/WHO and the USA’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) are authoritative sources of information.
Press conferences will be held ““ one for each island. The times and locations will be communicated. Until then, the CMO is available for interview.
Chief Medical Officer