Mérida, March 22nd 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan health ministry and the state government of Merida have closed schools, prohibited large meetings and social activities, are providing free vaccinations, and conducting an informational campaign to prevent a significant outbreak of the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, in both Merida and nationwide.
The Minister for Health, Eugenia Sader, said that so far there are 85 cases of swine flu in the country, 56 of those in the Andean state of Merida. So far two deaths are associated to the outbreak, one in a person who had a weak immune system, and another who was extremely obese and had high blood pressure, meaning both were more vulnerable to the virus.
While the regional government issued a decree suspending activities from yesterday until Friday, with aim of “ending the cycle of the virus, which is 48 hours”, banks, shops, and public transport remain open and operating as normal. Teachers are attending working days to learn about the prevention of the virus and to monitor students next week for symptoms.
Vaccinations are available in hospitals, Barrio Adentro Integral Diagnostic Centres (CDIs) and other private medical centres are also helping out. Health centres are giving priority to children, people over the age of 60 or other people who, due to other chronic illnesses, have a higher risk of contracting the flu.
The vaccinations are free, and the governor of Merida state, Marcos Dias, said some proceedings had been started against doctors who had started selling them.
Dias said this afternoon that 12,000 motorcyclists are handing out pamphlets about the virus.
He also explained that it was likely the flu arrived in the state via Spanish tourists visiting it to celebrate the well known “Sun Fair” Carnival recently, as the strains of the virus that have been discovered have also been found in Spain, Italy, and France. Cases of the virus outside Merida so far are in families who were visiting the city during Carnival.
Sader asked people with swine flu symptoms to go to a doctor, then stay inside until results were available, and everyone else to get vaccinated.
“The government is looking out for your health and for your part you should get a medical check up,” she told Venezuelans.
Swine flu spread worldwide and caused around 17, 000 deaths in 2009. However, on 10 August 2010 the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 influenza pandemic over, saying worldwide flu activity had returned to typical seasonal patterns.