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Health care workers who treated swine flu victim vaccinated

All the health care workers at Balwant Singh Hospital, where Guyana’s first swine flu victim sought medical attention, have  been vaccinated and are being monitored for the potentially deadly disease, Public Health Minister Dr. George Norton said Monday.

“They were tracked and all identified, for those who remained in Guyana –including the nurses as well as the relatives. They are being monitored and they are looking out for the symptoms,” he said.  About eight nurses, he said, treated the man.

A 50-year old Guyanese man has since been transferred to an overseas health care facility for further treatment. His relatives were also tracked down by health authorities.

Asked whether there has been any feedback from the infected man or his relatives overseas, he said they have “not been forthcoming.”

He said port health authorities at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Ogle International Airport, Lethem and Charity were on the lookout for persons with key symptoms are fever, persistent coughing and sneezing.

Norton assured that Guyana has ready access to Tamiflu vaccines from neighbouring Brazil through the Pan American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO). “The vaccine is not routinely given. It is only during a crisis or confirmed epidemic it is given,” he said. The vaccine is usually acquired and administered within 72 hours after the symptoms arise.

Asked how the lone confirmed case was able to slip through a tight port health screening process, Norton said the man did not present any symptoms on his arrival from China.

The Health Minister reassured Guyanese that there was no need for Guyanese to worry about the presence of the disease. “There is no need for panic, no need for alarm. In this case we are not worried,” he said.

Across in Trinidad and Tobago, authorities have ordered parents and guardians to keep their children away from school on Monday once they display the symptoms, in an effort to control the spread of the H1N1 virus.

Authorities in that twin-island state were expected to begin vaccinating at least 20,000 persons as soon as the specific flu shots arrive.