by Linda Straker
- Current ARI outbreak not linked to recent volcanic ash falls
- Infected individuals not Covid-19 positive
- Rhinovirus is most common cause of common cold
Dr Shawn Charles said that the current acute respiratory infection (ARI) outbreak on the island is not linked to the recent ash falls from the volcano eruption in neighbouring St Vincent, nor the Sahara dust in the atmosphere, nor are the infected individuals Covid-19 positive.
“We have been doing PCR testing for persons who are presented to our clinics. So far the Covid tests have been negative but we have identified rhinovirus as a potential cause and rhinovirus is the most common cause of the common cold,” said Charles who explained that the dramatic rise in acute respiratory infections is affecting many schools and business places.
“We are seeing absences and sick leaves as a result of this,” he said while referring to data that showed the sudden rise in cases in the past 3 weeks. “We are in week 18 of the year. Let us go back to week 16; in week 16 we recorded 26 cases of acute respiratory infection; in week 17 we have 46 and in week 18 we have 133,” he said.
Charles said the rhinovirus is the most common viral infectious agent in humans and is the predominant cause of the common cold.
He said that whenever there is an outbreak of respiratory infections, the Ministry of Health conducts random samples to determine the cause of the infection and the current outbreak which appears to be infecting students was not treated differently.
Charles, the Acting Chief Medical Officer said that the outbreak is a sign that citizens have become unworried about the Covid-19 virus and are not enforcing or complying with Covid-19 protocols that can assist with the transmission of a virus.
“This is a signal to us that we are heading down a very worrying path. It means that we have simply let down our guard and in the event that a single case of Covid-19 escapes all our measures that we are presently taking… It means we will face the same consequences as we see happening in other countries,” he said.
Charles said that an infected person can end up mingling and mixing with citizens if the person enters the island illegally despite the measures at the border or turns out to be someone who was late with the Covid-19 symptoms.