Good afternoon everyone and thank you for tuning into this live broadcast wherever you may be.
As many of us have seen and also experienced, a flu-like illness is spreading amongst our population, mainly in our Capital Honiara, part of Guadalcanal Province adjoining Honiara and Malaita Province. Hospitals, clinics including private clinics in these areas are seeing increasing number of such patients, babies, children, and adults presenting with a flu-like illness and seeking medical attention.
As such, as the Minister of Health I am duty bound to provide you with the information on the current situation and what my Ministry is doing about it and how we can all work together to address it.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, during the week, July 25 to 30th, our National Public Health Surveillance Unit have picked up an increase in the number of cases of Influenza or flu-like illnesses mainly in Honiara and Malaita. Total of 234 flu like cases were recorded in these provinces during this period.
The following week, 1st of August to the 7th of August 2022, the number of cases recorded increased from 234 to 803, an increase of 243 percent (%). This is derived from significant increases recorded at the sentinel sites or health facilities tasked to monitor and report diseases.
In Malaita Province, Atoifi hospital recorded an increase of 223 % and Auki clinic 363%. In Honiara, our National Referral Hospital (NRH) recorded an increase of 264%, Kukum clinic, 113% and Rove clinic 387%.
In terms of admissions at our National Referral Hospital Emergency Department (ED) in the past 24 hours, 72 percent of total ED admissions are respiratory patients, 68 adults and 26 children. Our doctors including paediatricians are working hard to provide treatment and care to the 5 paediatric inpatients admitted with flu-like symptoms.
Initially, most of the cases presenting to health facilities were babies and children. Now we are also seeing influx of adults also presenting with flu like illnesses. Symptoms include;
Our lab technicians at the National Referral Hospital, have since conducted laboratory tests from swab samples collected from patients and discovered multiple respiratory viruses with Rhinovirus and influenza H3 predominating, as the main drivers of the outbreak. These are viruses that cause common cold or flu- like illnesses that we are experiencing today. COVID-19 tests performed on the same samples returned negative test results.
These viruses are common cause of flu and cold and usually the symptoms are self-limiting. Small kids especially those with other illnesses such as respiratory diseases and heart disease and adults who are old or have other disease such as obesity, diabetes, respiratory or heart disease may have severe disease requiring hospitalization.
Announcement of outbreak
On this note, I stand today to announce that we now have an outbreak of Viral Respiratory Illnesses (VRI) in Honiara and Malaita.
Despite the outbreak only reported in Honiara and Malaita Provinces, there is high chance or risk that it will spread to all other Provinces due to ongoing inter-island travels.
Public Health measures
Therefore, it is in the interest of each and every one of us across the country to be on a heightened state of alertness, of this Viral Respiratory Illness (VRI) that is circulating in our communities.
The current health advisory for this outbreak is to once again practice and practice constantly the following public health measures, as we did for COVID-19.
To those experiencing these flu-like symptoms, drink plenty of warm water and take Panadol, if fever persists and for babies and children please consult our doctors at your nearest health clinic. Rest well and eat plenty of vegetables and fruits.
It is also important that malaria is ruled out by getting tested at your nearest clinic or private clinic once you develop fever.
Parents and guardians, I have also been advised by our paediatricians at NRH to inform you all to pay close attention to your babies and children. Should you notice shortness of breath or fast breathing or even if you have a slight worry for your baby or child don’t hesitate but quickly take them to the nearest clinic.
Keep your children at home and away from school if they are experiencing flu, cough, and fever. Get them tested for Malaria to rule out Malaria and care for them at home. Symptoms should subside after 3 to 4 days. If symptoms persist beyond 5 days get them to the nearest clinic.
For those with asthma, heart diseases etc. your health and life are at great risk from this flu outbreak therefore urgently seek medical attention at your nearest clinic if you develop flu symptoms.
The public is also advised to not acquire or purchase over-the- counter antibiotics such as amoxicillin or any other medical drugs to treat the current flu. Antibiotics are not to treat viral infections and are of no use in the current outbreak.
Any antibiotics or medical drugs acquired or purchased must be done with prescriptions from the doctor.
Fellow citizens and friends, in response to the outbreak in Honiara and Malaita, the Ministry of Health has activated its National Health Emergency Arrangements to manage and coordinate the response to the current outbreak.
In doing, so we will be:
National Referral Hospital
Our National Referral Hospital, is experiencing influx of patients with flu and is working hard to manage the situation at its Emergency Department. As part of its response, the hospital services will enter into emergency mode for time being to allow proper prepositioning of the response. Patients and public will be expected to be screened and triage at front of the Emergency Department. Additional space will be created at the Referral Clinic side as an extension of the respiratory unit for patients (children and adult) for their acute assessment and treatment before deciding on any admissions to the wards. All referrals will be managed at a makeshift referral clinic by each department at their wards. All department doctors will allocate 24 hours review team to the emergency department.
Clinical support departments such as x-ray and medical laboratory, will be stationed to the ED extended section at the Referral Clinic side as part of their on-call duties.
IPC guidelines will be strictly abided to, hence public or visitors will be limited as much as possible.
On this note may I urge all Honiara residents sick with the flu and seeking medical attention to first present yourselves at your nearest Honiara City Council clinic and only go to the NRH if doctors at HCC refers you to NRH. We understand the issue of HCC clinics closed at night and therefore we will look at possibilities to extend opening number of these clinics later into the night. This is to relieve pressure at our referral hospital.
To conclude, like COVID-19, this respiratory virus outbreak will increase in case numbers, spread across our islands and eventually peak and then decline.
Its impact on our health and lives very much depends on how we pay serious attention to the public health measures in place and strictly follow them. We will do our part to the best of our ability and likewise we encourage you to also play your part for a collective win against this outbreak.
A very good afternoon and thank you for your time.