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HomeHealth & FitnessCOVID subvariant HV.1 gaining traction across St Lucia

COVID subvariant HV.1 gaining traction across St Lucia

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia, (CNG Health) – The Ministry of Health, (MOH) has confirmed that subvariant HV.1 is current on the island, and while it is early days, health experts express concern about the prevalent variant and other respiratory viruses in Europe, Central Asia and North America, floating through the islands tourism industry, and gaining traction across Saint Lucia.

On January 17, 2024, the MOH received laboratory results from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) confirming the presence of Omicron variant HV.1 in samples submitted by the national reference Ezra Long Laboratory.

The MOH January 22, 2024, press release said it noted an increase in the number of persons presenting with flu-like illnesses during the last two months. This is particularly the case for children less than five years of age.

This announcement follows the MOH Health Status 2023: “The year 2023 saw a drastic reduction in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. This may be attributed to the reduced number of persons presenting for testing, the reduction in physician testing post declaration of the end of public health emergency of international concern, home testing and the overall relaxation of measures and protocols. […] An increase in cases of RSV was noted in the pediatric population,” says MOH.

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Closure of respiratory hospital

“On March 28, 2020, the Victoria Hospital was converted to the Respiratory Hospital to facilitate the isolation of COVID-19 patients and their treatment and care.

“Effective Friday, June 16, 2023, the Urgent Care Section of the Victoria Hospital/ Respiratory Hospital will be closed to the public to allow for the necessary renovation works for the Castries Urban Polyclinic. People are advised to access care at any of the other Wellness Centres,” MOH said.

 MOH rationale – June 14, 2023

“The reduced threat of COVID-19, reduced admission rate and reduced utilization of the facility for respiratory cases, have resulted in the MOH, as of January 2022, integrating the management of COVID-19 into the regular health service. This has been done successfully with the various respiratory clinics, the COVID-19 immunization program and COVID-19 testing and reporting. The closure of the Respiratory Hospital is the final phase of this process.”

“We also note the overutilization of the Emergency Room of the Millennium Heights Medical Complex-MHMC, for non-emergency cases, leading to long waiting times and delayed care and the frequent bed shortage at MHMC. The wards of the Victoria Hospital will continue to function for admissions of secondary care generated from the MHMC.”

The MOH press release January 22, 2024, advised:

“Nationally, in addition to COVID-19, the Epidemiology Unit at the MOH has recorded an increase in confirmed cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Influenza, for the period October 08 – December 2023. Similar trends were detected globally mainly in parts of Europe, Central Asia and North America due to changes in the temperate Northern hemisphere.”

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that people infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected. Symptoms of RSV infection usually include runny nose; decrease in appetite; coughing; sneezing; fever; and Wheezing. These symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once. In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties.

RSV can also cause more severe infections such as bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than one year of age. Healthy adults and infants infected with RSV do not usually need to be hospitalized.

But, some people with RSV infection, especially older adults and infants younger than six months of age, may need to be hospitalized if they are having trouble breathing or are dehydrated. In the most severe cases, a person may require additional oxygen, or IV fluids (if they can’t eat or drink enough), or intubation (have a breathing tube inserted through the mouth and down to the airway) with mechanical ventilation (a machine to help a person breathe). In most of these cases, hospitalization only lasts a few days.

Flu season October – March

The MOH noted flu season runs from October to March and encourages the use of the flu vaccine which is available free of charge at the various wellness centers. The COVID-19 Janssen vaccine is also available and can be taken as a booster, especially for persons with risk factors or chronic illness. COVID-19 testing is also available free of charge at the Wellness Centers.

Difference between Flu and COVID-19 – CDC

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. You cannot tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 by symptoms alone because some of the symptoms are the same. Some PCR tests can differentiate between flu and COVID-19 at the same time. If one of these tests is not available, many testing locations provide flu and COVID-19 tests separately. Talk to a healthcare provider about getting tested for both flu and COVID-19 if you have symptoms.

“Despite the fact that HV.1 seems to be highly transmissible, experts agree that the new subvariant is not known to cause severe disease. This is the likely cause for the increased respiratory illness noted in the country,” the MOH said Monday.




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