Moreover, authorities have been on alert since the number of patients tested positive for the H1N1 influenza virus in the Maldives rose to 176; the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) quarantine division has stepped up surveillance for passengers from the Maldives.
What Is H1N1?
H1N1 influenza is a flu-like illness which spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or touching infected surfaces.
Although H1N1 was earlier referred to as “swine flu”, this term is rarely used anymore because the illness does not spread through contact with pigs.
Furthermore, because this virus is relatively new, many of us are not immune to it. This is one of the main reasons this influenza spreads very fast, and it is believed to be more common among children and young adults.
A consultant epidemiologist at the Health Ministry told Roar that H1N1 influenza had been tested as the prevalent influenza in the South East Asian region, and Sri Lankans needed to seek medical advice if they developed symptoms of this influenza.
The consultant said that although there had been an increase in the number of patients in areas such as Kandy, Kilinochchi, other parts of the Northern Province, and Bibile, the situation was now relatively better.
H1N1 symptoms start three to five days after a person has been exposed to the virus, and can last for about eight days. Symptoms may include fever, sore throat, cough, muscle aches, headache, chills, fatigue, a runny or stuffy nose, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Of the complications that could arise, H1N1 is only fatal if it develops into pneumonia. The Ministry said that only a small percentage can develop into pneumonia, and even then it is treatable.
BIA On Alert
The BIA set up a health desk last week, after it was reported that there was an outbreak of the virus in the Maldives.
Quarantine Director Dr. Palitha Karunapema said that during the week, up to 300 incoming passengers were referred to the health desk, and about 105 showed symptoms of H1N1 influenza.
Meanwhile, SriLankan Airlines has activated Communicable Disease Procedures on its flights that are operating in and out of Male. When contacted, the Airline’s Information Desk told Roar that the crew would be wearing face masks and will provide a face mask to any passenger who requests one during the flight, as a safety precaution.
Wear a mask when moving around in crowded places, particularly if there have been reports of the illness from the area. If you feel that you have any of the symptoms mentioned earlier, the Health Ministry advises plenty of bed rest and avoiding large crowds, to prevent spread of the illness.
Furthermore, it is advisable to wash your hands regularly with soap and water in addition to drinking plenty of liquids.
Seek advice from your family physician if you think you might have fallen victim to the virus. Special investigations or admission to a hospital is not necessary for mild cases.
Always use a handkerchief or a tissue whenever you sneeze or cough. If you do not have a hanky or a tissue you can use your elbow to cover whenever you sneeze. Don’t use your hand as you could spread the illness through anything you touch.
Featured image credit AP