H1N1 on the Rise
The Swine Flu Pandemic Claims the Life of a Roatan Doctor

September 1st, 2009
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] A Roatan doctor working at the AKR clinic has become the sixth victim in Honduras of the H1N1 virus. Dr. Delia Vallecillo, an AKR Clinic Doctor, was seven months pregnant when she contracted the influenza. In a Tegucigalpa hospital her baby was saved in a C-section procedure, but Dr. Vallecido died. It is not known where and how Dr. Vallecillo became infected with the H1N1 flue, but it is understood that her pregnancy made her especially susceptible to H1N1 and would have complicated her recovery.

According to Dr. Janice Louie, MD, an infectious diseases specialist who volunteers at Clinical Esperanza, H1N1 is especially dangerous to people suffering from diabetes, asthma, cancer, the very young, very old, and pregnant women. Patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s also are susceptible to the flu, but tend to “do better and get through the flu.” Dr. Louie contributed to the study of susceptibility in pregnant women to the H1N1 virus published in July issue of British medical journal “The Lancet.”

The H1N1 flu is spread by cough droplets, by bacteria that can survive for several minutes on hands, doorknobs, etc. According to Dr. Louie, 97% of H1N1 patients suffer a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Other symptoms of H1N1 sufferers include headache, stomach ache, and diarrhea.

According to Dr. Louie, in early July, 25% of all patients walking in for consultation at Clinica Esperanza exhibited flu-like symptoms. Some of these patients were H1N1 flu carriers, but for 95% of H1N1 sufferers, the flu is a mild, transient illness. Only occasionally the patients are referred to AKR or the Roatan Public Hospital. Only these two places have Tamiflu, the drug that is known to fight H1N1.

Roatan Hospital offers the H1N1 rapid screening test, but proper testing for the H1N is expensive (in the US it’s around $300) and the closest testing facility is currently in Tegucigalpa. Because it takes at least four days to get tested, most people are evaluated for symptoms and advised to “rest, drink a lot of fluids” and let the body fight off the flu infection.

On June 11, the World Health Organization declared H1N1 a phase 6 pandemic, marking the first declared global pandemic since the 1968 Hong Kong flu. In Honduras, the first case of influenza was confirmed on May 21, and the first death due to the flu was recorded on June 22. According to Honduras’ Ministry of Health, by early July, six people had died so far from the H1N1 virus, and over 230 have been diagnosed to have H1N1 virus.

There are also high risk areas that are particularly susceptible to H1N1 bacteria presence. These areas include places with large numbers of people and places that sick people are likely to frequent. People working in high traffic areas are more susceptible to infections with the flu and employees working at the Galaxy Wave terminal and on the boat have been wearing masks for months.

The annual flu season is due to begin in the fall, and the rainy season is likely to create an additional challenge to medical staff on the island. [/private]

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