Caribbean protocol to tackle H1N1 flu coming

Published on Monday, June 22, 2009

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- In a region where people move freely, there is growing concern in the Caribbean over the spread of the H1N1 virus, and this has prompted Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) in Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to meet in an emergency session to craft protocols specific to the Region on how to tackle this global pandemic.

These protocols are to be presented to CARICOM Heads of Government when they meet in Guyana 2-5 July 2009, the CARICOM Secretariat’s Assistant Secretary-General for Human and Social Development, Dr Edward Greene, revealed during a media clinic today to highlight some issues that are expected to engage the attention of the Region’s Leaders.

Dr Greene stressed that the protocols that were being developed by the CMOs were not intended to replace the internationally accepted ones, but were vital for the Caribbean.

The Region’s CMOs are particularly concerned about the impact of the movement of people on the spread of the H1n1 virus, which is showing up in increasing numbers in CARICOM Member States. Linked to the movement of people is tourism, on which a number of Caribbean countries depend as a primary means of foreign exchange.

The Assistant Secretary-General drew attention to the recent case of a luxury cruise liner whose passengers were refused landing status in Barbados, Grenada and Saint Lucia as several of them exhibited flu like symptoms.

“We want to ensure that we in no way end up with varying strategies that may be to the disadvantage of some countries, hence we are having a joint approach on this very important issue,” said Dr Greene.

CARICOM Secretary-General Edwin Carrington added that Swine Flu was a significant matter for the Region and should therefore, not be taken lightly.

“We should all be interested in a policy that deals with this matter. As a Region we also need to consider the importance of tourism and its value to the Region,” said Secretary-General Carrington.

On the issue of the potential future impact of Swine Flu on the Caribbean, Dr Greene revealed that the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) were collaborating on a study that would provide some much needed data. He added that to date Swine Flu had not been as devastating in the Caribbean as in other regions but the Region must be proactive in tackling this global pandemic.