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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Swine flu outbreak reaches NMI

The global pandemic called the H1N1 influenza virus had been going full blast in other countries for several months now, with near daily reports of increasing death tolls and more nations being added to the list of those with active infections. The CNMI, however, seemed miraculously spared from the scourge, with no reports of anyone being infected on the island.

That miracle didn’t last long, though. In August this year, the Department of Public Health confirmed that two patients have contracted the virus: a 16-year-old boy and a tourist from Japan. DPH admitted that it has been seeing the symptoms of the disease on island but it only made the confirmation after receiving word from a laboratory in Texas.

The number soon rose to six just a month after, to 65 in the following days. To date, there have been 71 confirmed cases of H1N1 infection in the CNMI. The miracle, however, is that there have been no H1N1-related deaths so far on the islands. In Guam, there have already been two such cases.

At the moment, the CNMI remains on heightened alert, Phase 5, with health officials keeping a vigilant eye on the spread of the infection. All samples are brought to a San Antonio, Texas laboratory to ensure that every case is well accounted for.

DPH continue to assure the public that it has an adequate supply of the vaccines intended to protect residents from the virus.

The CNMI has been allocated 56,000 H1N1 flu vaccines. So far it has already received 16,000 doses—both actual shots and flu mists. The CNMI expects to get all the doses early next year.

Latest hospital records show that nearly 6,000 residents, mostly children, have already received the H1N1 vaccines. As of early this month, a total of 3,556 elementary children in both private and public schools were provided the free vaccines while 2,135 doses were administered by private providers and outreach programs.

Last week, the remaining available doses were given out to the public.

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