The current outbreak of COVID-19 in Montserrat is now affecting elderly care homes and the prison, say health officials.
Speaking on Wednesday’s edition of Talking Health with Penny Maloney, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharra Greenaway-Duberry and Director of Primary Health Care Dr. Dorothea Hazel-Blake discussed the current conditions on the island.
Dr. Hazel-Blake said in the early days of the outbreak around April 22 until the 29th, the majority of infections (over 80%) were children from zero to 13 years of age. In that time, more than 80 children tested positive for COVID-19. In the second week, as numbers increased, the age groups affected changed, which was expected as young children would have parents and older siblings around.
The director said the proportion of children testing positive was still high, but they have seen an increase in adults and older teenagers being affected. Currently, a preliminary glance at the data says young people 20 to 29 years are contracting the virus.
If you are feeling unwell, call the health hotline at 496-7437 or 493-4755.
The CMO added that they are now seeing infection in elderly care facilities and the prison. In the residential homes of Golden Years and Margetson Memorial many are testing positive, and most residents are 80 and over, which is of great concern to health officials. Visits to the prison and the care homes have been halted to get the spread under control.
Omicron or Delta Variant
Dr. Greenaway-Duberry said they have not confirmed the variant in circulation, but early indications are that it is the highly transmissible omicron variant.
Prior to this outbreak, the January outbreak peaked at 67 and was caused by the Delta variant of the virus. Now, with the island at 337 cases as of May 10, and most people experiencing mild to moderate symptoms and little to no hospitalisations, it is most likely to be omicron, say officials. They are in the process of sending off samples for genomic sequencing to confirm the variant. Results will take up to three weeks to be returned.
The CMO said prior to the outbreak, they had seen cases of Omicron in imported cases. Another feature of the current crisis is that they are seeing reinfections. People who had COVID-19 in prior outbreaks are being infected again. This she said could mean that any natural immunity from one variant doesn’t protect you from other variants.
People with underlying conditions are still vulnerable to hospitalisations and the officials continue to encourage mask wearing, frequent hand washing, sanitisation, physical distancing, and vaccination.
Most of the symptoms reported are joint and muscle pain, runny nose, cough, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and bad headaches.
Dr. Hazel-Blake said they have also noted that the length of time people remain positive is much longer than during the January outbreak. On average, people are testing positive beyond the seventh day which was the usual retesting period. They are now extending the testing period to the tenth day as a result.
The director asked that patients stick to the testing schedule given to them by the doctor as to come in early means they will test positive and then must be retested later one.
Residents who are feeling unwell should call the hotline of the Quarantine Management Unit for advice.
To manage pain, paracetamol or ibuprofen is recommended. Used Histal or other cough suppressants.
The island now has anti-viral medications for COVID-19 in tablet form. They are being prescribed to patients who are not in hospital, have mild to moderate illness and are at elevated risk of developing severe covid. Two versions of the medication are available, which is designed to reduce the virus’ ability to replicate (multiply) and help clear it a lot faster, the CMO shared.
Doctors are calling positive patients and offering anti-viral medications. They will ask for underlying conditions (hypertension, diabetes, cancer, over 60 and unvaccinated). It is not to be taken by pregnant women or people under 18. Patients should indicate what other medications they are currently taking to ensure that the right anti-viral medication is offered.
A friend or family member can collect the medication once prescribed as patients must stay in isolation.
COVID-19 vaccination is still being encouraged. Interested people should register to get vaccinated by calling the St. John’s Health Centre at 491-5218.
You will be given an appointment of when to come in. This is also the same for anyone wishing to have a booster shot.
People who have tested positive and are thinking about getting the vaccine, are asked to wait about a month before getting vaccinated.