http://www.thedailyherald.com/news/d...1/flum141.html


DP: Lack of action on A/H1N1
a threat to people, economy
~ Submits questions to ExCo ~

PHILIPSBURG--The Democratic Party faction of the Island Council has written to the Executive Council seeking answers concerning the H1N1 Influenza type A virus (A/H1N1) and its threat to the people and economy of St. Maarten.

?Particularly in the United States, the virus, according to media reports, has spread to 46 states [and] doctors? visits have increased steeply while hospitalisation and deaths continue to increase. Considering this development, St. Maarten should be monitoring the developments locally very closely, as an increase in the US means that it is a matter of time before we experience an increase here,? DP Councilwoman Maria Buncamper-Molanus said.

The former Commissioner of Health explained that the Dutch Minister of Public Health had announced she had made 34 million euros available to purchase the vaccine for A/H1N1 that was now available. The amount of vaccine, according to the Dutch Public Health Minister, is sufficient to vaccinate the Dutch and Netherlands Antillean population twice.

?But it is being advised to provide specific, vulnerable target groups in the community with the vaccine. These groups include persons with medical risks for the annual seasonal flu, all persons age 60 and over and pregnant women who are already in their third trimester,? she said.

Also, health care workers who have direct contact with at-risk patients are considered persons who should be vaccinated. While the volume of vaccine expected earlier this year has apparently not become available as yet, the question, according to Buncamper-Molanus, is what the government of St. Maarten is doing about it.

In that context, the Democratic Party would like the Executive Council to answer the following questions: Is the Executive Council monitoring the spread of the A/H1N1 closely? How many A/H1N1 cases have we had in St. Maarten to date, [and], if available, can the report be provided to the Island Council?

Has Government or any other entity in St. Maarten been able to secure any of the vaccine from the Dutch Government or through any other means or from any other source for the Island Territory of St. Maarten? Has a plan been devised in which, in particular, the at-risk groups of our population ? the elderly, health care workers, expecting mothers, etc. ? are able to get vaccinated?

The Dutch Public Health Advisory Council has advised against providing the entire Dutch population with the vaccine. As such, the DP asked if the Executive Council had given any consideration to this advice as it pertained to St. Maarten, considering the fact that St. Maarten was a tourism destination receiving most of its visitors from a destination in which A/H1N1 has spread so widely.

The Executive Council was also asked if it considered everyone working in the tourism sector to fall within ?persons at risk,? and as a result, would a recommendation or decision be made to have all these persons vaccinated?

?The Democratic Party considers it of utmost importance that these questions be addressed promptly as all indications are that the situation is escalating rapidly. The people of St. Maarten and the economy of St. Maarten could be at risk if A/H1N1 is not taken seriously and the prevention of its spread is not dealt with effectively,? Buncamper-Molanus concluded.




Copyright ?2008 The Daily Herald St. Maarten