Response to the challenges of pandemic H1N1 in a small island state: the Barbadian experience

Sobers-Grannum, Natasha; Springer, Karen; Ferdinand, Elizabeth; John, Joy S. t.
January 2010
BMC Public Health;Jan2010 Supplement 1, Vol. 10, p1
Academic Journal
Background Having been overwhelmed by the complexity of the response needed for the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic, public health professionals in the small island state of Barbados put various measures in place to improve its response in the event of a pandemic. Methods Data for this study was collected using Barbados' National Influenza Surveillance System, which was revitalized in 2007. It is comprised of ten sentinel sites which send weekly notifications of acute respiratory illness (ARI) and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) to the Office of the National Epidemiologist. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, meetings of the National Pandemic Planning Committee and the Technical Command Committee were convened. The pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) implemented as a result of these meetings form the basis of the results presented in this paper. Results On June 3, 2009, Barbados reported its first case of 2009 H1N1. From June until October 2009, there were 155 laboratory confirmed cases of 2009 H1N1, with one additional case occurring in January 2010. For the outbreak period (June-October 2009), the surveillance team received reports of 2,483 ARI cases, compared to 412 cases for the same period in 2008. The total hospitalization rate due to SARIs for the year 2009 was 90.1 per 100,000 people, as compared to 7.3 per 100,000 people for 2008. Barbados' pandemic response was characterized by a strong surveillance system combining active and passive surveillance, good risk communication strategy, a strengthened public and private sector partnership, and effective regional and international collaborations. Community restriction strategies such as school and workplace closures and cancellation of group events were not utilized as public health measures to delay the spread of the virus. Some health care facilities struggled with providing adequate isolation facilities. Conclusions The number of confirmed cases was small but the significant surge in ARI and SARI cases indicate that the impact of the virus on the island was moderate. As a result of 2009 H1N1, virological surveillance has improved significantly and local, regional and international partnerships have been strengthened.


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