The Ministry of Health has advised of the public who fall into the high risk categories with regard to susceptibility to the influenza A virus subtype H1N1 which is spreading in the country, to take protective measures with regard to travel and personal hygiene.
It is not just in Sri Lanka, but also in South Asian countries such as India and the Maldives, influenza like illnesses have been increasing. The peak pattern is found in the months of December, January and February.
The Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry noted that in the case of Sri Lanka it had however extended beyond the expected time period. The peak has reportedly come down slightly from the situation that was in January.
Predominant among these cases is H1N1 and while among ordinarily healthy people this manifests itself in the form of flu (with phlegm) or the cold, among high risk groups such as expectant mothers, the elderly, very young including children and young adults, those with low immunity, and those suffering from chronic illnesses such cardiac diseases (including heart failure) and among patients with lung, liver and renal failure, there is a slightly higher possibility of complications arising out of Influenza A.
Chief Epidemiologist, Dr. Samitha Ginige explained that there were a certain number of cases being reported from different parts of the country, with 17 deaths in the Central Province (Kandy and Matale) that includes two pregnant women.
An exact figure with regard to the number of deaths cannot be given, as some have been due to pneumonia. H1N1 is however associated with a certain number of deaths.
“People travel to work, to public places using public transport. Basic hygiene such as frequent hand washing is important as when one touches the mucous membrane without washing one’s hands if one’s hands contain the infection from having touched infected surfaces in prior, the virus can be contracted.
“One should avoid unnecessary travel to public places such as hospitals. If one’s child has the flu and should not be sent to school. When coughing and sneezing, one should use a handkerchief or tissue,” Dr. Ginige emphasized.
Meanwhile, two Faculties of the University of Ruhuna and all the Faculties of the University of Peradeniya have since been closed owing to the outbreak and spread of the disease which could reach epidemic proportions, symptoms of which includes fever.
Minister of Health, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne however recently noted that the number of cases reported thus far was not suggestive of the disease having reached epidemic levels. According to him, of the 3,548 patients reported thus far, only 528 had been confirmed as having H1N1. The authorities have acknowledged that there is an increase in the disease spreading in Kilinochchi, Jaffna and Moneragala.