By Marion Ali
One of three test results from samples sent abroad for in- depth analysis after several patients died unexpectedly from flu-like symptoms, has confirmed that one victim died from complications associated with the H3N2 strain of influenza (flu).
The test result, which was sent to the Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency (CARPHA), based in Trinidad, returned last Thursday with the confirmation, Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero told the Reporter this week. Test results on two more samples are still pending, delayed because CARPHA was closed for a week.
Manzanero said that in Belize, flu patients are generally treated with Tamiflu, which does not cure but simply manages the effects of the flu, since the flu can only be treated. H3N2, he said, is just one of several strains of influenza, almost all of which can portray a wide array of symptoms in patients. Still not everyone would experience the same symptoms, Manzanero said. All strains of influenza, however, are viral infections, and all the strains can have flu-like effects on patients.
The test result that came back positive for H3N2, is for an eight-year-old girl from Belize City who died about a month ago.
News of seven unexpected deaths at or just after being treated at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) came to light about two weeks ago. The deaths spanned over a period of some months, dating back to last October, but the last three occurred last month alone. The patients originated from different areas of the country and the patients were reported to have displayed “a severe, atypical form of pneumonia,” a release from the KHMH stated on January 29th, when the investigation into the deaths began.
The influenza H3N2 virus, with the matrix (M) gene from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus, was first detected in people in July 2011. Both viruses were first identified in pigs in the US in 2010. Infections with the H3N2 virus have mostly been associated with prolonged exposure to pigs at agricultural fairs in the US, but limited human-to-human spread of this virus has been detected in the past.