Mystery illness hits JDF recruits

BY KIMONE FRANCIS Observer staff reporter francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

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THE Ministry of Health was yesterday still trying to identify the respiratory infection that 80 Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) recruits contracted and which has left six admitted to the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), one of whom is said to be in critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

"[There] is still no organism as yet, but we know it’s not the H1N1. We know it’s not an influenza virus but there are other things that cause the same symptoms, so we’re waiting to complete those studies," Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at the ministry Dr Winston De La Haye told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.


The infected recruits, he said, have been experiencing flu-like symptoms.


Dr De La Hay confirmed that 57 recruits were treated by the JDF’s medical team and have since returned to the intake; 17 were treated at UHWI and discharged; five admitted to wards and one to the ICU.


Two hundred and fifty recruits were at the JDF training centre at Newcastle in St Andrew where the outbreak began late last week. The recruits are now based at Twickenham Park in St Catherine.


Dr De La Haye said that the ministry has also sought the assistance of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to conduct further tests of samples to identify the infection.


"It is hard to say [how soon we will be able to identify what it is], but we expect further results this (Tuesday) evening from the biology lab; we’re working closely with them; as they get it, they call us, but nothing yet.


"We have had initial discussions with PAHO and we have been in constant collaboration with them. We shouldn’t be worried; it’s routine," he said.


Yesterday, JDF spokesman Major Basil Jarrett admitted
that the defence force authorities had not readily picked up on the infection.


"When the first two recruits reported sick we didn’t really take any real notice of it because it’s a very rigorous and demanding training and sometimes from that recruits get sick; their bodies break down. But when the third recruit got sick we thought perhaps it was bigger than a simple flu," he disclosed.


Jarrett said immediate contact was then made with the ministry and that the JDF has been working closely with them to identify "exactly what we are faced with".


Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told the
Observer that he was made aware of the outbreak on December 14 and noted that his ministry is working with the leadership of the JDF.


"I visited Twickenham Park today (yesterday), along with the CMO, and did a briefing session," said Tufton.


In the meantime, Jarrett said that the outbreak posed no major threat to the JDF’s training programme.


"They might have lost a few days, but no, I wouldn’t say it’s a setback. At this time of the year they would be looking to scale down a bit for the holiday, so it has not really impacted our training schedule," he said.


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