First swine flu death in the Maldives

A 65-year-old Maldivian man with no recent history of travel abroad or contact with a known case of Influenza A died from H1N1 flu virus yesterday, said an official at the centre for community health and disease (CCHD).

Senior Medical Officer Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed said the man contracted the virus in the Maldives, adding, “It’s the first case of local transmission.”

The man went to Inguraidhoo Health Centre on 16 November after exhibiting flu-like symptoms but was sent back home after his condition improved, said Jamsheed.

The following day, his health deteriorated and he was taken to Ungoofaru Regional Hospital. Blood samples were then sent to Male’ yesterday to be tested for swine flu but the man died at around 2.35pm.

The CCHD is now in the process of identifying and locating all those who came into contact with the man, who travelled on a dhoni (traditional boat) from his home island Inguraidhoo to Innamaadhoo, both in Raa atoll, in the days preceding his death.

Jamsheed said the centre had contacted many of those the 65-year-old had come into contact and had tested eight for swine flu. So far, a four-year-old boy has tested positive for Influenza A. Doctors are awaiting his results for the H1N1 virus. 

He added the centre hoped to contact the remaining people by the end of the day.

Up until now, the previous six people detected with the virus, four Maldivians and two foreigners, had travelled from abroad and all had recovered after receiving treatment.

Earlier this year, the CCHD distributed materials about swine flu to raise awareness about the virus in the Maldives.

Jamsheed said the centre would now roll out the second phase of the campaign to ensure the public was aware of the symptoms and the precautionary measures to take.

Symptoms include a running nose, cough, fever, sneezing and shortness of breath. Health officials are advising people to wash their hands regularly and cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing.

Jamsheed said some members of the public believed the whole country should wear masks, but he stressed this was an unnecessary preventive measure and advised people not to panic.

He said the CCHD was satisfied with the level of preparedness in the Maldives to handle an outbreak and doctors would meet for a nationwide conference to discuss the matter tomorrow.

He added the government had requested a batch of the swine flu vaccination from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to latest statistics from the WHO, there have been over 6,250 deaths from swine flu. But, the organisation notes the actual statistic may be higher as many countries have stopped counting individual cases.

It adds that with the exception of Sri Lanka and Nepal, transmission in South Asia continues to decline. In July, the WHO claimed the H1N1 virus could infect two billion people over the next two years.
The swine flu hotline is 3304829.