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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Cyprus fully ready for possible flu outbreak ]

Cyprus fully ready for possible flu outbreak

STATE SERVICES are fully up-to-date regarding what must be done in light of an H1N1 outbreak, while a series of contingency plans have been put into place, the Health Minister said yesterday.

Christos Patsalides said the Education Ministry, National Guard, Police and Civil Defence had already been briefed about their roles and how to co-ordinate services. Contingency plans ranged from moderate to extreme case scenarios, from one suspect case to an entire hotel full of patients displaying symptoms, he said.

“What we must remember is not to overinflate matters or to create a state of panic… We are in direct contact with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and follow their recommendations to the letter,” said Patsalides.

There would be full transparency regarding the dissemination of information to the public and everything that had to be done was being done, he said.

The minister ruled out the use of thermal-imaging cameras at airports to screen passengers for novel influenza for the time being and said measures were sometimes undertaken simply for appearances sake.

“There has been a lot of discussion around these and they are not perhaps as effective as they seem,” he said.

Patsalides said although some international airports had opted to use the heat sensitive cameras to screen travellers, it was not an official recommendation. He said people could have elevated body temperatures for thousands of different reasons that had nothing to do with the flu. Nevertheless, if deemed necessary at a future date the cameras could easily be ordered and installed at airports, he said.

In the meantime, a special isolated area had been allocated at both Larnaca and Paphos airports to deal with possible suspect cases. Hospitals had also been bolstered with additional medical and nursing staff, he said.

Although the airports did not look like small hospitals, the necessary announcements and traveller information regarding the new virus had been put up.

“As matters develop then our measures will develop… Excessive measures create more panic, benefit no one and cause more upset,” he said.

Patsalides said it was particularly important not to create anxiety at the start of the island’s tourist season and warned against the folly of jumping to and then reporting the wrong conclusions. The minister said there was a difference between investigating a suspect case and simply investigating someone with flu. There was no need for Cyprus to be placed on a map indicating suspect cases, causing unnecessary unease, when it had yet to import such a case.

The minister said a special ward had already been set up at Limassol hospital to handle patients with confirmed H1N1. The island’s hospital heads had also yesterday been briefed about how to handle different scenarios during a midday meeting chaired by Patsalides.

Meanwhile the investigation into information private pharmacies had sold antiviral medication without a prescription continued. Guilty pharmacists would face the full brunt of the law, which included criminal and disciplinary action, the minister warned.

Pharmacists’ Association president Nicos Nouris repeated his accusation that the health crisis had highlighted the government’s lack of strategic planning and that instead of taking responsibility for its own insufficient flu treatment stockpiles it had diverted the blame to private pharmacies.

Patsalides defended the government and said it fared much better than some other countries and that soon it would have medications to cover 10 per cent of the population in light of an outbreak. The Health Ministry has already ordered and is expecting to take delivery of 20,000 more antiviral treatments increasing its stocks to 82,000, he said.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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