H1N1 pandemic vaccination campaign begins
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday started its nationwide vaccination campaign of Influenza A (H1N1) which is expected to last till 30th of July.
The pandemic (H1N1) that was discovered in 2009 is a new influenza that never circulated among human beings before but after its outbreak in Mexico, North America, people have virtually no immunity to it. The week-long campaign is expected to cover a total of 170, 000 people across the country with priorities given to medical health workers, pregnant women, children from 10-11 years and people with chronic diseases and diabetics.
Speaking at a press briefing organised by the WHO last Friday at its head office in Kotu, ahead of the campaign, Dr. Thomas Sukwa, the WHO country representative, said that the new influenza A (H1N1) is a viral infection that affects mainly the nose, the throat, the bronchi and occasionally, the lungs. According to him, the virus is transmitted easily from person to another by exposure to infected droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing that is inhaled, or that can contaminate hands or surfaces. He stated that vaccination is the principal measure for preventing influenza and reducing the impact of epidemics.
Dilating on the consequences of pandemic, Dr Sukwa noted that it does not only stop at health but by extension to the livelihood of the people, governance and security, and economic systems, among others. The WHO boss also informed journalists that the incubation period of the virus is estimated from 1-7 days, adding that the signs of the new influenza are fever, cough, sore throat, body ache, headache, chills and fatigue.
He recommended covering one's nose and mouth with tissue when coughing and sneezing, washing hands with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing, avoiding close contact with an infected person, and visiting the nearest health facility among others as the preventive measures to the virus.
On the diagnosis and treatment, Dr Sukwa explained that the confirmation is by Laboratory H1N1 virus, noting that currently WHO identifies the Institute Pasteur in Dakar as a reference laboratory for West Africa. He further adduced that Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) antiviral drug can cure the disease with stocks available globally including The Gambia.
Situation in WHO Africa Region
According to the WHO country representative, cumulative cases as of 31st May 2010 have indicated that a total of 18, 598 laboratories confirmed cases have been registered in 35 countries of which he added, a total of 168 deaths were recorded in 9 countries.
In West Africa, he revealed that Algeria is having 916 cases; Cape Verde, 118 cases; Ivory Coast, 30 cases; Ghana, 720 cases; Guinea Conakry, 3 cases; Mali, 40 cases; Mauritania, 15 cases; Niger, 49 cases; Nigeria, 11 cases; and Senegal, 325 cases.
Gambia government's response
He commended the government of The Gambia for their resolve to strengthening measures in order to prevent the virulent strain of influenza A (H1N1) from coming to The Gambia.
Operation of the campaign
According to the WHO boss, it is anticipated that there will be over 206 vaccination teams countrywide. He pointed out that the teams would be moving form village to village, and from health facility to health facility, so as to cover the whole targeted population. He finally expressed WHO resolve to support the government of The Gambia in prevention and control of Influenza A (H1N1).
Author: by Alieu Ceesay