Health officials rush to the hills

Controversy over closure of CP schools
By Chandani Kirinde

A controversy over the closure of all schools in the Central Province to curb the spread of the H1N1 virus will be resolved after a Health Ministry team visits the province tomorrow, it was decided yesterday.
The Health Ministry team will be sent to the Province tomorrow to assess the HINI threat level faced by each school and then decide by the end of the week which schools should continue to remain closed and which should be reopened.

Till Friday all public and private schools along with tuition classes in the province will remain closed but any further closure of schools would first require a report from the Epidemiological Unit of the Health Ministry, it was decided at a joint meeting of Health and Education Ministry officials yesterday.

The controversy and confusion arose after Central Province Chief Minister Sarath Ekanayake on Thursday announced that all schools in the province were being closed to prevent the spread of the influenza.

All principals and teachers in the Province have been asked to report to work from tomorrow to help the visiting health officials to take a decision.

The Education Ministry on Friday objected to the decision by the Chief Minister to close schools in the Central Province but after yesterday’s meeting, health officials said there were justifiable reasons for the closure of schools.

Meanwhile the Ceylon Teachers’ Union has protest against the decision by the Education Ministry to inform teachers to report to work form tomorrow despite the CP authorities’ decision to close schools there.

“This situation has arisen because the Education Ministry had not put a proper plan in place to tackle the spread of the disease among school children. What must now be done is for the Ministry and the provincial authorities to stop their tag-o’- war and come forward with a plan,” Teachers’ Union Secretary Joseph Stalin said.

The closure of schools came after at least five deaths were reported from the Kandy, Matara and Anuradhapura districts since the first case o f H1N1 was detected in the country in mid June this year.
Even though there were only three in-patients at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) at Angoda at present, there were ten to 15 persons with H1N1-type symptoms seeking out-patient treatment, a hospital official said. “We cannot confirm if all of them have the disease but it is possible because it is now spreading among the public,” he said.

The Ministry of Heath in new guidelines for management of patients with HINI virus said all patients with the suspected influenza attending hospitals would be screened to asses their illness and only patients with severe or progressive symptoms would be admitted to hospitals for laboratory conformation of diagnosis and treatment with anti virals.

Those with mild illness would be managed as out-patients with symptomatic treatment and advice. The Medical Research Institute (MRI) will continue to process the samples for laboratory diagnosis at the requests of physicians attending to hospitalized patients

From the last week of October, a number of students from few schools were confirmed to be suffering form the disease indicating widespread community transmissions among the general public and hence the new strategies have been adopted to minimise the impact of the disease.

Meanwhile the Health Ministry has also decided to immediately import a vaccine called “Novel A HINI 2009”, which has been approved by the World Health Organization, to treat patients with H1N1.

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