Eight pregnant women among 24 flu deaths
The outbreak of a flu caused by H1N1 virus has killed 24 people, including eight pregnant women, and is spreading, a senior health official said yesterday. The Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Unit Senior Registrar, Dr. Athula Liyanapathirana, said the Southern Province had been the worst affected with two pregnant women from Karapitiya and Balapitiya succumbing to the virus.
Six more cases of pregnant women dying after contracting the flu were also reported from Hambantota, Galle, Dharga Town, Kegalle, Batticaloa and Kalubowila. At least 130 suspected cases have been reported from 19 districts. “Most of the patients are elderly and those with a compromised immune system because of old age and chronic diseases,” Dr. Liyanapathirana said.
He noted that the deaths had occurred because of the patients’ failure to seek treatment early. Pregnant women with flu like symptoms should seek medical treatment immediately while children under 2 years and people above 65 years must see a doctor within 48 hours, Dr. Liyanapathirana said.
Meanwhile, the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea is causing worries among relatives of some 26,000 Sri Lankans living there. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the virus has killed 14 people and infected 138 in three weeks, since it was first diagnosed on May 20. The WHO has described the outbreak as ‘large and complex’.
The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLFBE) said the South Korean Health Ministry was taking maximum measures to curb the spread of the disease and there was little cause for worry. “The Sri Lankans living there have been advised on the precautionary measures that they should take to avoid contracting the disease,” Additional General Manager Mangala Randeniya said.
Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry also said there was no cause for alarm as the chances of the disease being ‘imported’ into the country were remote. Dr. Liyanapathirana said that in 2012 at the height of the spread of MERS virus in the Middle East, thousands of people travelled between Sri Lanka and the Middle Eastern countries daily, but no cases were reported in Sri Lanka.
However, he said that as a precautionary measure, the ministry’s health desk at the airport had been provided with information leaflets to be distributed to travellers to and from South Korea and the Middle East. He said that the WHO had not sent out any alarm signals, but Sri Lanka was in preparedness for an epidemic alert.
The World Health Organisation said yesterday that although more cases should be anticipated in South Korea, it saw no sign the disease was spreading in the community. There was also no indication that the MERS virus in South Korea had changed to make it more transmissible, the WHO’s assistant director general, Keiji Fukuda, told a news conference at the Health Ministry in Sejong, south of the capital, Seoul.
He said he was encouraged that South Korea’s control measures were having an impact. The businessman who brought MERS back to South Korea visited several health centres for a cough and fever before he was diagnosed, leaving a trail of infection in his wake. All of South Korea’s cases have been linked to health facilities.