The Preventive Health Department (PHD) has changed its protocols of operation related to Influenza A Pandemic (H1N1) virus.  Some of these changes are in line with international World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines in managing the treatment of patients infected with the virus.
Persons suspected of having the pandemic H1N1 virus are requested to refrain from visiting the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) Emergency Room, and should remain at home.  You should call your family physician who will advise you further and as a last resort you can call the PHD.
The second change in protocol is that the anti-viral medication Tami flu will only be given to certain classic risk groups also identified as persons with an underlying medical condition, namely pregnant women in the third trimester; persons with severe immune deficiency who are at an increased risk for complications of flu; persons with a heart condition; persons with a more severe/complicated course of disease and or/who are admitted to hospital; and children younger than two-year-of age.  Once it is suspected that a person from a risk group has pandemic H1N1, they will receive treatment.
On August 21, the WHO issued guidelines for the use of antiviral medication.  The guidelines represent the consensus reached by an international panel of experts who reviewed all available studies on the safety and effectiveness of these drugs. Worldwide, most patients infected with the pandemic virus continue to experience typical influenza symptoms and fully recover within a week, even without any form of medical treatment.
Healthy patients with uncomplicated illness need not be treated with antivirals.  On an individual patient basis, initial treatment decisions should be based on clinical assessment and knowledge about the presence of the virus in the community.
Worldwide, around 40 per cent of severe cases are now occurring in previously healthy children and adults, usually under the age of 50 years.  Some of these patients experience a sudden and very rapid deterioration in their clinical condition, usually on day five or six following the onset of symptoms.
The PHD is urging those who travel abroad on vacation or for business, and return with a flu-like-illness to remain at home and contact their family physician immediately.  They should not engage in any community activities such as working, shopping or participating in any mass/social activities. 
This will help minimize the risk of infecting those around you, especially people who are at a higher risk of severe illness and complications from influenza.
Tourists are hereby advised if they develop a flu-like illness while vacationing on the island, to contact the PHD immediately.
The symptoms of Influenza A (H1N1) flu virus in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with the virus.
Persons seeking additional information should contact PHD at telephone numbers: 542-3003 or 542-3553 or visit the following websites: www.cdc.gov/swineflu or www.who.int. for more information on Influenza A(H1N1) virus also referred to as swine flu.