Public Health Minister, Ms. Volda Lawrence, is refuting claims in some sections of the local media that the H1N1 virus (Swine Flu) is to blame for the death of a Chinese national working at a mining firm in Barima/Waini (Region One).

Lawrence said last night that Ministry of Public Health specialists were still conducting “a battery of tests” to identify the virus blamed for the manganese miner’s death and the hospitalisation of eight others, including a solitary Guyanese who is an employee of the Guyana Manganese Inc (GMI) firm.

According to the Minister, “there is no determination (as yet) of what the ailment is but all the patients displayed similar symptoms including pain, fever, headache and respiratory distress”

Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, said a “respiratory ailment” is to blame for the death and hospitalisation of the GMI workers.

The deceased worker was ailing for days before seeking medical attention at the Matthews Ridge Hospital last Thursday. He died Saturday. His body will be airlifted to the capital Sunday.

The seven other ailing GMI employees were airlifted to the Georgetown Public Hospital Inc (GPHC) for further treatment. Neither the deceased nor those currently hospitalised had travelled overseas recently. 

The seven patients are to be transferred to the West Demerara Regional Hospital in Essequibo Islands/West Demerara (Region Three) on Sunday, and will be isolated, the Public Health Minister said.

She said a team of officials including a pathologist, a Senior Environmental Health Officer; a mortuary attendant, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specialist will be visiting the manganese mining site. 

The Minister indicated that the team will be complemented by medical specialists, including  Regional Health Officer (RHO) Dr Vishal Ramdas, operating in Barima/Waini among others.

“We are asking Region One residents to continue performing their usual hygiene habits such as washing their hands after visiting the washroom; covering their mouths when coughing,” Lawrence said. 

“If you are not feeling well go to a health facility,” the Minister counselled.



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