Healthy Living looks at the flu season and Influenza H1N1
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health issued a release cautioning Belizeans about the seasonal flu. Included in the update was that there was one suspected cases of H-one N-one pending confirmation. Back in 2009, the entire world was on the edge fearing the global pandemic of H-one N-one; so what is the situation now? All our neighboring countries have confirmed cases of H-one N-one. In tonight’s healthy living, we spoke to one specialist who is of the opinion that H-one N-one is most likely already here.
Dr. Cecilio Eck, Pediatrician
“The H1N1 is around in our neighboring countries, identified, isolated and confirmed. We get a lot of visitors every year at around this time of year and more likely than not H1N1 is in Belize.”
Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
In the past two years, the H1N1 virus has been detected in Belize. Currently the Ministry of Health is awaiting lab results to confirm if persons hospitalized with respiratory illnesses, are infected with H1N1. However, the hype and hysteriasurrounding H1N1 is significantlytamer compared to the 2009 reaction of the pandemic.
Dr. Cecilio Eck
“When it came out in 2009 there was a global pandemic, it was the first time this one could spread person to person because of the fear of the unknown. The known was that in 1918 there was a global pandemic that killed a third of the world’s population, and because of the unknown of the situation a lot of people were worrying. The statistics then showed later on that H1N1 was not as severe as they had first it would be, people still got severely ill, from the regular flu, you can die from it each year when there is an outbreak. With H1n1 it was found that it wasn’t the people who died weren’t the elderly or the kids or people with concomitant illnesses. It mostly affected persons who were middle age, statistics show, fat adults. So if you got H1N1 and you’re fat and middle age you have a higher mortality rate; you’re at a higher risk of dying versus if you had gotten the regular flu.”
Since the discovery of the new strain, flu vaccines now include coverage for the H1N1 subtype of influenza. The seasonal flu vaccine is administered across the country at public health clinics for free and at private clinics for a charge; but many Belizeans still don’t access it.
Dr. Cecilio Eck
“In Belize, because the first time you get the shot there is a reaction to it, you get a flu like illness, you feel ill for a couple days, usually people don’t want to get the shot the following year. What I tell parents is you need to vaccinate your kids. They’ll go to school, they’ll get exposed, it is free at the clinics and you need to get the shot. Get vaccinated; it’s the best way to prevent it.”
Even with free access to the vaccination, each year during our flu season children and adults are admitted for care due to complications from the flu.
Dr. Cecilio Eck
“At this time of year, yes, our wards are full. I’d say more than fifty to sixty percent are kids with infection in the lungs. And yes, what happens before that occurs will be a flu-like illness. I am one for primary care and I would always say take your vaccine; it makes a whole lot of sense. You won’t get sick. And even if you do get sick, it is a less serious illness. You need to stay at home. What will happen is at work or with the kids at school, you are not productive; you will not learn as much at school. And I call it spreading the love. It is very selfish for you to go to work or to school when you are ill because it is not productive any at all.”
The flu virus, although very common, should not be taken too lightly. Flu commonly affects the frail elderly and children but the H1N1 Influenza puts younger, middle age, overweight or obese persons more at risk for severe complications. Regular flu medicines can help you get rid of the flu but Dr. Eck warns, pay close attention to your body as severe flus lead to pneumonia which can lead to death.
Dr. Cecilio Eck
“It is just a much more severe illness. So you will feel the flu symptoms but if you know your body well after a couple days you should be able to turn the corner. If you are not turning the corner, if you are not feeling better and the symptoms are getting worse, yes seek a health professional opinion as soon as possible. Certainly though, if the fever is prolonged, if it lasts more than three or four days, if you have the debilitating headaches, the sever joint pain, if the mucus you start to cough up becomes colorful—green, yellow—then yes you need to visit your health center or your physician as soon as possible.”
The Ministry of Health reminds the public that the flu can be prevented through: Washing your hands frequently with soap and clean water; coughing and sneezing into your sleeve and not your hands; keeping your hands away from your face; and keeping common surface areas (such as door knobs, counters) clean and disinfected.