The first recorded death from Influenza A (H1N1) in Belize has been confirmed by tests of influenza samples sent by the Ministry of Health to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the amalgamated regional authority responsible for public health, located in Trinidad and Tobago.
The unfortunate victim is a 29 year old female of Belize City that had been sick since late December and died on January 6 of acute respiratory distress related to the virus.
She cannot be identified due to privacy and confidentiality issues. H1N1 was first seen in – 2009 and caused a global pandemic with more than 19,000 dead and over 1.6 million people worldwide infected. The Ministry of Health is just as concerned this time, but less so than in 2009 because H1N1 will be treated and targeted like any other flu vaccine, only watched more closely because of its unique characteristics. Dr. Marvin Manzanero reviews the medical history of the first victim.
“In our documents it shows that that she had been here on the 28th December. When she comes back she is reported that she is severely ill. We have heard that she was here prior to the 28th, but we couldn’t find that in our file. So, we don’t know what really happened between the 28th and the 2nd. She just appeared about five days; but when she came on the 2nd, the first quote she said is that she is severely ill, that she had a heart rate of 148, fever of 103, respiratory of 28. Based on that description, she is a very clear vision”.
The case is being reviewed for best practices by the Ministry, as they are not sure what caused the victim’s symptoms to escalate between her first appearance at the hospital and her admission and subsequent death.
The Director of Health Services Dr. Michael Pitts advises that the best precaution against getting seriously ill with H1N1 and other flu-like diseases is to monitor yourself and come to the doctor at the first sign of serious symptoms, like acute chest pains and pneumonia.
“Right now, we have moved on and they and they said that that H1N1 began acting like seasonal influenza. Today, only one person here in Belize who has died of H1N1 influenza, and have H1N1 in the file. Many of the influenza illnesses, you have a group that die under the influenza. If we go back into the history of Belize medical history, we will find over the years that people have died from influenza. I don’t think we are there, but we are watching the information and we will update it if anything new that would come there”.
Locally, the Ministry of Health has stepped up its alert. Two other persons diagnosed with H1N1 in the Western Health Region have recovered and were sent home after treatment. Two other serious cases tested positive for other flu-like viruses.
An additional number of samples have been tested and some of those came back negative for any flu-like virus, including H1N1. But, says Dr. Pitts, it is important to take the usual precautions such as washing hands, coughing or sneezing into a cloth surface instead of the hands and generally.
Dr. Michael Pitts: “Immediately, when you ask that question in a sort of funnel, the tip of the shortest end of the funnel is a hospital. The message to the public is:
(1) they are in the flu season, what are the symptoms and what are the dos and don’ts- the basics. For example, if I have my child at home and having signs of flu, I wouldn’t dent him or her to school; if I am an employer that have employees and you have such symptoms, I would recommend that you stay home. in the technical draw, we call that, “social distancing”.
(2) There are some unique situations that people might not be able to stay home, so w are recommending to pay attention to what we call the cough etiquette. the reflex pattern is when you cough, you put your hand over your face. We are not trying to recommend that you cough in your sleep; it’s difficult, but to the extent that you can do that, you can cough, but then we are saying that you use only disposable tissues to do that”.