The implementation of public health measures in the onset of COVID-19 has not only helped contain the spread of the virus but significantly reduce other illnesses.
In his presentation at yesterday’s Ministry of Health COVID-19 update, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said public health facilities were seeing fewer cases of acute respiratory illnesses, influenza and gastroenteritis.
On March 14, the Government closed schools, shut the borders on March 23 and imposed a stay-at-home order on March 30 in addition to a campaign to improve hygiene through handwashing, sanitising and the wearing of masks.
Parasram’s presentation was an analysis of six years of data, categorising each illness into intensity levels of controlled, endemic and alert.
The presentation also showed that T&T was experiencing a six-year low in cases of gastroenteritis.
“I just wanted to show these graphs this morning to put some perspectives as the number of cases of viral infections, gastroenteritis and influenza coming into our facilities is decreasing significantly. We would have seen our community samples decrease a little bit over the last few days.
“The reason purely is that persons are not coming into our facilities as they would have been before. We have seen nationally if you look at a six-year trend, that there are significant decreases in the number of infectious diseases that are occurring in Trinidad & Tobago other than COVID-19.
“It is a knock-on effect of the public health measures that we are seeing, and we are happy to see that decline as well.”
In cases of gastroenteritis in patients over five years old, the number of cases was at the alarm level in January. This decreased at the end of February and the disease is now at its lowest in six years.
The data for children under five years old shows an almost similar movement.In terms of acute viral illnesses, such as the common cold, levels in January were endemic until March when the Ministry implemented the COVID-19 public health measures.
There was a steady decrease in cases up to last week. Parasram said there were about 30 cases of these illnesses throughout the system.
For influenza, which is a vaccine-preventable disease, it has been at the controlled level from January to present.
However, there has been a steady decrease in cases since public health measures began. Parasram said there were zero to a few cases presenting at public health facilities last week. So far, 114,000 doses of influenza vaccine were administered through the public health system for 2020.
On Monday, the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced a new outbreak of Ebola virus in their Équateur province.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that six Ebola cases were detected in Wangata.
Four died and two are alive and under care. Parasram said the Ministry was monitoring the outbreak, adding that T&T has a National Ebola Plan, which is similar to the influenza plan.
However, he said T&T’s borders are closed, giving little opportunity for anyone in that part of the world to enter T&T.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the chance of an outbreak was zero as there is now an Ebola vaccine approved by the WHO and the US Centre of Diseases Control and Prevention.