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Illness that hit Jamaican soldiers still not identified

Jamaica Observer

Illness that hit Jamaican soldiers still not identified

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MEDICAL AUTHORITIES HAVE not yet been able to identify the specific respiratory infection that struck 83 Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers at the army’s New Castle training base in St Andrew.

So far the dreaded Influenza A (H1N1/swine flu) virus has been ruled out, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr Winston de la Haye. He told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that none of the tests for other viral infections have uncovered any definitive results.

“So far we haven’t got a definitive indication of anything specific, and it is with that in mind that we have included PAHO (Pan American Health Organization). They are ready to assist in widening the net of possible pathogens (even those that we don’t have the capacity to test for) sending samples to CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States) or CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency) in Trinidad to do further testing. The aim is to identify the organism and zero in effectively in terms of treatment,” he explained.

Dr de la Haye stressed that, apart from the resemblance to H1N1, it is difficult to put a finger on the cause of the symptoms. “It’s really just clinical presentations that we can comment on. The presentation being so severe in some, suggesting a possible H1N1,” he stated.

He said cultures are still being taken from bodily fluids of the affected individuals on a daily basis. “We really hope that we will be able to identify some specific pathogens. The good thing is that there have been no new cases over the last 48 hours,” he said.

JDF spokesman Major Basil Jarrett could not be reached for further comment on the state of the recruits, but up to Tuesday when news first broke about the infection outbreak at the training camp, it was reported that six recruits were admitted to the University Hospital of the West Indies, including one in critical condition. Another 17 were treated and discharged. Fifty-seven were treated by the JDF’s medical team.

The infection spread began at the camp late last week, where 257 recruits were in training. The group has since been moved to Twickenham Park in St Catherine.

Meanwhile, Major Jarrett said that the outbreak was not a major threat to the JDF’s training programme. “At this time of the year they would be looking to scale down a bit for the holiday, so it has not really impacted our training schedule,” he stated. (Jamaica Observer)