Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Critically ill JDF recruit flown to US for treatment

Published:Friday | December 23, 2016 | 12:00 AM

While the Government has taken steps to get urgent medical treatment in the United States for the Jamaica Defence Force recruit who was in the Intensive Care Unit of the University Hospital of the West Indies, battling an unknown illness, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is cautioning his Opposition counterpart not to generate panic in the society about the ailment.

Tufton told The Gleaner that the JDF recruit who was critically ill is being flown to Florida to get additional treatment.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health reported that about 80 JDF recruits fell ill from an influenza-type viral respiratory infection.

Horace Dalley, who shadows the health portfolio, said yesterday that the Opposition was "gravely anxious at the suspected viral outbreak that has been affecting the members of the Jamaica Defence Force".

However, in a Gleaner interview, Tufton urged Dalley not to create panic in the society when there is no need for alarm.

"I want to reassure him (Dalley) and the public that the Government is prepared and taking the necessary precaution," Tufton said.

In a news release yesterday, Dalley noted that while it is the flu season, the country needs to know what it is up against.

He urged the Government to move quickly to inform Jamaicans the name of the causative agent and how each citizen should protect himself.

The health minister said yesterday that several tests have already been done to rule out a number of possibilities based on symptoms, including H1N1. He said the Government would like to carry out a test for Legionnaires' disease, as well as other tests, but do not have the capacity to test for them.

Legionnaires' disease is a form of atypical pneumonia caused by any type of Legionella bacteria. Signs and symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle pains, and headaches.

Tufton said his ministry has contacted the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention through the Pan American Health Organisation and is currently working with its international partners to get samples to those labs to do further tests.

The health minister agreed with Dalley that there is the need to determine what type of illness is affecting the JDF recruits. He said there are three or four other tests to be done outside of Jamaica.

"The ailment seems to have been cauterised for now in that the action taken by the military, including isolating the affected individuals, has been working to prevent further spread.

"The treatment that has been applied, despite the challenges of determining exactly what it is, seems to have worked in most instances where a number of the recruits have recovered or demonstrating signs of recovery."