The Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Unit and the National Influenza Centre of the Virology Unit of the Medical Research Institute have called on people who were at high risk with regard to contracting the Influenza A (H1N1) virus to take necessary precautions.

Recently, eight confirmed cases were reported from Bibile while previously there were cases from Kandy where two deaths were reported from the renal unit of a hospital.

Consultant Virologist in charge of the Centre Dr. Jude Jayamaha and Chief Epidemiologist, Consultant Epidemiologist Dr. Samitha Ginige pointed out that though there was a slight increase in H1N1 infections, the influenza-like virus which resulted in an illness which was flu-like was not unusual during the period from November to February.

Since 2009 the virus has been a scourge all over the world according to medical research.
“This is not serious for healthy people. Diagnostic facilities are available now. There is no need to panic. The advice we can give is that it is better to avoid overcrowded or unnecessarily crowded places. There is also a common obligation to prevent a further spread. One should use a handkerchief when sneezing and coughing,” he said.

He said that those using public transport and engaging in travel should wash their hands regularly. “Good hygiene is of paramount importance. If someone has any of the symptoms, they should not ignore it but instead get examined by a qualified medical practitioner,” Dr. Ginige explained.

Dr. Jayamaha observed that one of the reasons was the fluctuations (cold and dry) in the weather and the fact that more samples were being sent for detection.

High risk categories include children below the age of two, those above 65 years of age, pregnant mothers and those with co-morbidities such as heart failure, severe respiratory conditions, immunosuppressive conditions like cancer and renal disease. Those falling into the high risk categories have a high probability of developing complications such as pneumonia from the virus. Symptoms include having a cold, runny nose, sore throat, cough and fever.