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Health Ministry steps up respiratory virus surveillance

[Press Release] Technocrats from the Ministry of Health are being armed with new knowledge and skills to respond to and combat any unforeseen influenzas which may arise in the future.

The Ministry of Health with the support of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is making a deliberate attempt to strengthen the capacity of health services to detect and respond quickly to the appearance of cases of unusual severe acute respiratory infections.

On Tuesday, May 15th, a surveillance of unusual respiratory events training was held at the Bay Gardens Hotel for Healthcare professionals. Acting National Epidemiologist Dr. Gemma Chery gave an insight on the workshop.

“New emerging respiratory viruses can be very infectious and as a result they could cause severe diseases. If we looking at influenza and we look back and see the number of outbreaks we’ve have and the pandemics that we’ve had we would realize that influenza viruses especially when you have populations what we call immunologically naive they can cause serious disease. You can have severe mortality and morbidity so we found it necessary to collaborate with the PAHO to bring together healthcare workers to strengthen their capacity to be able to detect and to be able to respond and in a very timely manner to any appearance or any occurrence of what we call unusual severe respiratory infection”.

Medical Epidemiologist from the PAHO Regional Office Influenza Surveillance Team, Dr. Myrna Charles said, the health workers are expected to leave the training with a wealth of knowledge and new skills.

“I am hoping that the participants will be able to clearly define what is a severe acute respiratory infection and also clearly define what is an influenza like illness case and with those definitions in mind and with the knowledge of how that should be processed and captured they will also be able to detect and know the process for informing the Ministry and country on any typical or novel infection that might occur. And in terms of the strengthening of the system I think that the participants are well motivated and so when they go back to their communities, into their health centers, they will be able to more clearly focus and direct their colleagues on how to participate and conduct active surveillance for a serve acute respiratory infect illness and also for unusual respiratory infection”.

Dr. Charles added that, the National Epidemiologist Unit in the Ministry of Health is in the process of implementing surveillance for unusual respiratory events, and so with this training, the Ministry is one step ahead in getting this unusual surveillance system off the ground and running.

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