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Health Minister: Venezuela is capable of facing the potential arrival of the swine flu

The Minister of People’s Power for Health and Social Welfare, Jesús Mantilla, indicated on Tuesday that the government is prepared to face the situation should the swine flu reach Venezuela.

During a special broadcast of ‘Contragolpe’, a program on Venezolana de Televisión, Mantilla affirmed that his office has been implementing a series of measures in the country’s ports and airports to prevent the swine flu from entering the country via any travelers that have symptoms.

“There is a group of doctors, epidemiologists, nurses that are receiving passengers from various flights,” the Minister said.

He explained that the process being applied in airports consists of checking passengers for the virus’ symptoms.

“When we see that a passenger is presenting symptoms, we immediately comply with the recommendations given by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO),” Mantilla said in reference to the use of masks.

The Minister clarified that currently the use of these masks among the population is not necessary, given that there are no cases of the swine flu in Venezuela.  “The masks are only being used in aiports,” he affirmed.

Mantilla added that after passengers are checked and the presence of symptoms is confirmed, they are taken to a room they have prepared in the airport in order to transfer them to a health care center and place them under observation for 24 hours.

Minister Mantilla emphasized that instructions have been given to all regional health directors and the different governorships for them to use health care centers as reference points in the event of the appearance of any cases.

“In the [state of] Vargas, passengers are received in the airport and if they present symptoms we take them to Vargas de la Guaira Hospital, which belongs ot the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security (IVSS),” he explained.

Caracas University Hospital will work as a pilot center and, should it become necessary, there are plans to expand the number of health centers in the city.  However, Mantilla made it clear that so far the use of new health centers has not been needed.

He further informed that private clinics have received instructions to immediately notify authorities should a patient with the relevant symptoms arrive.

The Minister recommended people avoid traveling at this time to countries who have confirmed cases, in order to both prevent the spread of the disease and to help health authorities in those countries regain control of the situation.

Mantilla reiterated that the cases of two people in Valencia who had been “suspected” of having the swine flu tested negative following exams made by the Rafael Rangel National Institute of Hygiene in Caracas.  The Minister said he “rejected those who are attempting to manipulate this information.”

He then affirmed that should any case present itself, the authorities will be the ones who will be first in notifying the public.

People in Venezuela who have doubts or any questions about this virus can call a 24/7 phone hotline (080047473) that has been set up by the Health Ministry.

Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias (ABN), Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Press Office / April 29, 2009

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