Castries, Saint Lucia, April 25, 2009 - (NEMO) - Reacting quickly to news emanating from the World Health Organization, WHO, of cases of swine flu in Mexico and the United States, the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre - CAREC, called on Caribbean countries to begin immediate mobilization of key personnel to ensure that the region is ready to deal with possible cases of the flu.
"This is clearly an animal strain of the H1N1 virus and it has pandemic potential because it is infecting people," Director General of the WHO, Margaret Chan, said at a teleconference.
"However, we cannot say on the basis of currently available laboratory, epidemiological, and clinical evidence whether or not it will indeed cause a pandemic,” she said.
In record time, the Ministry of Health called together a high level gathering of personnel at NEMO’s headquarters in Bisee on the very day—Saturday April 26—to assess the situation and prepare a plan to deal with any possible identification of someone affected with swine flu. Amongst the organizations represented were NEMO Secretariat, the Government Information Service, the Saint Lucia Air and Seaports Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Chief Veterinarian in the Ministry of Agriculture Dr. George Joseph notes that “pork is safe to eat once properly cooked.”
Presently, there are no known cases of swine flu in Saint Lucia, “but our concern” says Senior Medical Officer (SMO in the Ministry of Health Dr. Merlyn Frederick, “is that the virus can be spread from human to human and as a result, we must be extremely vigilant from now on.”
On the international scene, more than 1,000 people have been sickened in Mexico, but officials are trying to determine how many of those patients have swine flu, the country's health minister, Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, said.
Eight people were confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have swine flu in the United States: six in California and two in Texas. In addition, two more confirmed cases were expected to be announced Saturday, by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, a written statement from the state said.
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