Influenza-suspected deaths in Puerto Rico investigated
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez said Monday that his department is investigating three suspicious deaths caused by the influenza respiratory virus in Puerto Rico.
As reported by Telenoticias, a 36-year-old man identified as Tomás Cruz died in Coamo after having been certified as infected with the virus at a Diagnostic and Treatment Center in that municipality.
However, the Health secretary clarified that an autopsy will be conducted to determine whether, in effect, influenza was the cause of death because the patient also suffered from chronic conditions.
“We have three suspected cases that we are investigating, including this [Coamo] case,” Rodríguez said. “The death certificate says the patient came with upper gastrointestinal bleeding and also the possibility of having chronic liver disease. What does this mean? That this patient already had a comorbidity that put him at risk of having influenza.”
The Health secretary reiterated that patients suffering from chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes or compromised immune systems should be vaccinated to prevent infection.
“This is a virus that attacks these people and can be deadly. Same as people older than 65 and children. It is very important to recognize that the only way to prevent this virus is through vaccination, hygiene, washing hands, using hand sanitizer; the areas where you work or eat, clean them before you sit down, and with this we can lower the incidence of this disease,” Rodríguez explained.
According to the most recent weekly influenza surveillance report, released Friday, during Jan. 20-27 there were 2,004 registered influenza cases, mostly in the Ponce region. It should be noted that the first week of January, the Health Department registered 802 cases; the second, 1,030; and the third, 1,464. However, at a press conference Friday, Rodríguez, along with state epidemiologist Carmen Deseda, announced there have not been enough cases to declare an epidemic in Puerto Rico.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends annual vaccinations as a prevention method, the highly contagious respiratory virus is different from a cold because it usually appears suddenly. Some of the symptoms are fever or chills, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, muscle pain, headache, fatigue or feeling tired, and some people may suffer from vomiting and diarrhea, especially children.
Most patients recover from the disease in a period of two weeks; however, some may develop complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis or an ear infection. Chronic conditions may worsen after contracting influenza.