No need to close schools - Health Services Director | Daily News
Influenza virus in Southern Province :

No need to close schools - Health Services Director

‘Drop in school attendance in Matara’:

Among the influenza virus infected children reported throughout the Southern Province, there is only a very few school children. Hence, there is no need for the closure of schools and other educational institutions of the province, Southern Province Health Services Director G. Wijesooriya said.

“The children who have so far succumbed to the viral flu are children under two years of age. Moreover over 85% of paediatric deaths were due to chronic congenital intricacies which reduces genetic resistance to the virus,” he said.

Wijesooriya was speaking at a discussion to review the current situation of the influenza epidemic in the province.

The discussion was convened by Southern Province Governor Marshal Perera at the Governor’s Secretariat Auditorium on Wednesday.

“There are instances where children who died of other diseases were also wrongly branded as influenza related victims. The influenza virus is seasonal in Sri Lanka and was first reported in 2008. Usually, the epidemic breaks out twice a year. In 2007, 98 persons died of influenza.The media always questions about the influenza vaccine. However,we cannot take a decision over that matter. The vaccine is recommended by a special committee of experts. At present, we have ample stocks of medicine in all hospitals throughout the province. We hope to be able to control the disease within the next month.

Karapitiya Teaching Hospital Deputy Director Dr.Susantha Fernando said that there were 46 influenza positive patients being treated at the Karapitiya hospital,out of which number two were in critical condition.

Dr.Fernando said, So far 503 out of the 600 flu patients identified are children. Following medical examination, 110 out them were found to be infected with the influenza virus. More reports are to be received.

By Wednesday (June 6), 15 children had died of the disease.Three were from the Galle,seven from the Matara and Five were from the Hambantota districts respectively. Further,40 out of the 90 pediatric patients being treated at Karapitya are suspected to be infected with the influenza virus. Two children are at present in a critical condition.

“We have initiated a number of measures to stop the further spread of the epidemic. We have set up a separate unit for the examination of patients who come to the hospital daily. Within an hour, we take a comprehensive report on each of the patient and treat them. Patients who need to be hospitaliSed are admitted and others are sent home after treatment.

Southern Province Chief Minister Shan Wijayalal De Silva said that unauthentic and exaggerated stories in the media about the flu epidemic has created a sense of panic in the minds of the people.

“Therefore,we can notice a drop in school attendance. The closure of schools is not practical. For how long can we keep the schools closed? We have taken maximum precautionary measures to halt the spread of the disease. We have allocated sufficient funds from the Southern Provincial Council Treasury in addition to the colossal amounts of money provided by the Health Ministry,” he said.

“The abrupt decision to close schools for three days last week also created more fear among the public. People should be vigilant over the situation but we should not cause unwanted panic or fear,” he pointed out.

Southern Province Education Minister Chandima Rasaputra said that if children do not attend schools, the Health Ministry should strive to build up the confidence of the public by encouraging them to send their children to school.

The highest number of deaths due to the flu were reported from Matara district.The parents of Thiahgoda Junior School demand the closure of the school. I think the number of deaths exceeds 15. I suppose that it is better to close the schools for two weeks and educate the public over the situation,” Rasaputra further said.

Southern Province Governor Marshal Perera said that on observing the statistics over the prevailing influenza situation he noticed that the epidemic had not been properly controlled.

“The death toll that started from five has now been increased up to 20. Some try to say that the situation is not so serious. I do not agree with that. There is no restriction for expenditures over controlling the epidemic. President Maithripala Sirisena has assured that all the funds needed will be be provided.Hence, I urge all the respective authorities to pool their resources to reduce the spread of the flu,” the Southern Province Governor said.

Meanwhile, Southern Provincial Education Minister Chandima Rasaputhra said there is a 21 per cent reduction in school attendance in the Matara district alone.

Presently, there are over 342 schools with 72,260 children in the Matara district. Of them, nearly 28,265 students were absent by yesterday. Another 366 students present with symtoms of fever, cough and flu were sent home with their parents, elders and guardians,” the school authorities added.

“This situation has worsened during past to to three weeks. Therefore, parents are relunctant to send their children to schools, Dhamma schools and tuition classes through fear of contracting the fast spreading viral diseases. The health of the children has been the main consideration of us,” they said.




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