Sunday, April 26, 2009

Central America Taking Steps to Mitigate Swine Flu Outbreak

So far the outbreak has caused 20 deaths and more than a thousand worldwide have come down with the disease. Central America is taking preventive measures to slow or prevent the spread of the disease to the isthmus.

In addition to health warnings, hospitals are informed and trained to detect suspected cases. At airports and border inspections, people coming from north of the country either by air or road and are being checked.

In Guatemala, the Ministry of Health has declared a yellow alert.

At the La Aurora International Airport, a clinic has been put into operation. Mexico has reached agreements with the Central American countries to prevent persons who are suspected of carrying the virus from boarding planes. A "sanitary cordon" has been placed around the isthmus because the virus is most likely to enter from Mexico.

The National Epidemiology Center of the Ministry of Health, said yesterday that it has intensified epidemiological surveillance in San Marcos, Huehuetenango and Petén departments bordering Mexico, where special clinics have been set up and personnel have orders to not allow the movement of Mexicans to into Guatemalan territory if they have severe coughing and high fever, which are symptoms of swine flu.

However, Guatemala has more than 900 kilometers of border with Mexico and there are hundreds of illegal entry points.

Alert in El Salvador

The Ministry of Health of El Salvador declared a state of alert at all border points against the possible arrival of swine flu, reported the Health Minister Guillermo Maza.

Under the alert, the health authorities promoted a series of preventative measures at the land borders with Honduras and Guatemala, as well as at El Salvador International Airport, 44 km southeast of the capital.

"We do not want to alarm people but we must be alert and careful with respiratory diseases," stressed the head of Health.

According to Maza, the flow of people arriving from North America to Central America leaves open the possibility of contagion.

Under the early warning, hospitals and health centers were told to be alert for cases of influenza.

The surveillance was joined by the Salvadoran army that has facilities throughout the country.

Prevention in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, the Ministry of Health launched mechanisms for monitoring and prevention, and urged the public to be vigilant for any symptoms that might be related to the disease.

In parallel, the authorities stepped up surveillance at its two international airports in order to control the entry of tourists from United States and Mexico.

Health authorities urged people who have traveled to Mexico in the last two weeks to report immediately to a hospital in case of showing symptoms of flu.

Health Alert in Honduras

In Honduras, the Health Minister, Carlos Aguilar, announced that a health alert was declared.

The Honduran Ministry of Health may announce new measures in the coming days.

Health checks are being done in Honduras in all air and land customs points.

Cities with greater vigilance are Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, the two most important cities in this country.

Nicaragua Restricts Imports

Meanwhile, authorities in Nicaragua restricted the importation of pigs from Mexico as part of preventive measures taken before the flu outbreak in that country, reported an official source.

A communique of the National System for Prevention, Mitigation and Attention of Disasters (SINAPRED) reported that the country's health authorities say that the pig population has not been officially implicated in cases of influenza or swine flu.

The Ministry of Health (MINSA) and Agriculture and Forestry (MAGFOR) have stepped up surveillance in the Sandino International Airport in Managua and at the various border posts there.

Cause of Today's Power Failure

The explosion of a transformer substation in Villa Nueva (Guatemala City) caused an almost nationwide blackout today. The failure of the transformer triggered a domino effect as protective devices tripped causing a blackout of almost the entire country, reported the minister of Energy and Mines, Carlos Meany.

The blackout occurred at around 10:50 AM and spread to almost all departments except Quiché and Petén.

Power was restored in Izabal in about 3 hours.

Regarding the electricity interconnection (intertie) between the electrical systems of Guatemala and Mexico, tests that were scheduled for today were postponed until next Tuesday and that the interruption of electrical power was not related to any tests or to the intertie.

The intertie with Mexico will enable Guatemala to obtain as much as 200 megawatts of energy from Mexico, 120 MW is allocated to INDE.