By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor
Lab results from samples taken from two of three persons who died suddenly in January after suffering from respiratory-related issues have returned from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad and Tobago, testing negative for the presence of the H3N2 virus.
Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero told the Reporter on Tuesday that the test results also showed there was also no other strain of influenza detected in those persons who died. He quickly clarified, however, that while influenza may have been absent, explanations were given as to the deaths of four of the patients who died suddenly in the latter part of 2015.
“When we send the samples to CARPHA, we’re sending those samples for virus, but it doesn’t mean that the patient couldn’t have had a bacteria, a parasite or a fungus,” Manzanero explained. “My report is stating that we found no other influenza virus on those samples sent, so the patients could have died of a bacterial infection, of a parasite or a fungal infection,” he continued.
In addition, the tests conducted are not able to determine what the patients died of either, Manzanero said. “They can tell you that the sample that was sent is positive for a specific influenza virus, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person died from that.”
Three of the cases occurred in January of this year, and the first sample that returned from the batch came back positive for the H3N2 strain of the virus.
But while any strain of the flu may prove deadly for some individuals, many patients may also not need hospitalization for them. “Not everybody that gets H3N2 will necessarily wind up being inside a hospital because H3N2 could be circulated much more than we are actually diagnosing because you could have the flu and you don’t go to the hospital…and not everybody that goes to the hospital is tested to find out what virus they have,” he said.
Manzanero advises that getting the flu vaccine as the season begins is a wise decision, since it protects against or lessens the chance of acquiring severe cases of the flu, which consists of many different strains. He also urges people to exercise proper cough etiquette and hygiene.
The influenza H3N2 virus was first detected in people in July 2011. It was first identified in pigs in the US in 2010 and infections with H3N2 virus have mostly been associated with prolonged exposure to pigs, with limited human-to-human spread of this virus detected.
The three persons who died in January showed similar respiratory and abdominal-related issues as had four others who died between October and November of 2-15.