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PAHO/WHO U.S.-Mexico Border Office Chief corrects deceptive statement about antiviral resistance

El Paso, TX, August 4, 2009 (PAHO/WHO) - During a presentation about the Health Agenda for the Americas at the "Seventh Latin American Seminar on Science and Health Journalism," for Latin American journalists, held at the Institute of the Americas in La Jolla, CA, Dr. Maria Teresa Cerqueira, Chief of the PAHO/WHO U.S.-Mexico Border Office was challenged with questions regarding the current situation of influenza A (H1N1), she was asked questions about antiviral resistant cases along the U.S.-Mexico Border Region.

Reporters at the seminar asked the following questions among others:

1.    What cities on the border had cases of H1N1?
2.    Are there any Tamiflu-resistant cases along the Texas-Mexico Border?

The following statements were inadvertently published in a news article that has circulated worlwide:

  • "We have found resistance to Tamiflu on the border. We have observed some cases, few to be sure, in El Paso and close to McAllen, Texas," said Maria Teresa Cerqueira, head of the Pan-American Health Organization office in La Jolla, California.
  • "Experts had gathered in La Jolla on Monday to discuss the response to the outbreak, and warned that resistant strains were likely emerging because of overuse of antivirals like Tamiflu."
  • "In the United States Tamiflu is sold with a prescription, but in Mexico and Canada it is sold freely and taken at the first sneeze. Then, when it is really needed, it doesn't work," said Cerqueira.

Dr. Maria Teresa Cerqueira would like to reinstate her responses and clarify that this was not an influenza experts' gathering, with the following statements:

  • "I stated that there are influenza A (H1N1) cases along the U.S.-Mexico Border, I knew of several in El Paso, McAllen and San Diego among others; however I was unaware of any antiviral resistant cases.
  • "I added that, we recommended surveillance for this possibility as people on the border often go back and forth for medical care and to buy medicines, but I had no information on any antiviral resistant cases, I repeated this several times.  I also indicated that with limited resources it is difficult to this much needed surveillance."
  • "I reinstated during the seminar the importance of not calling it the "swine flu", since April 30, 2009, WHO has been referring to this influenza virus as influenza A (H1N1). In addition, clarified that contrary to initial suspicions, the current influenza A (H1N1) epidemic has not been linked to contact with either live pigs or the consumption of pork or pork products."

Dr. Maria Cerqueira adds, that "individuals are advised and encouraged to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water on a regular basis and to seek medical attention if they develop any symptoms of influenza-like illness, to avoid self-medication of antivirals or antibiotics, and to maintain social distance. Resistance can develop to antiviral drugs used for influenza. Therefore, WHO and its partners are monitoring antiviral drug resistance."

Since the level of overall influenza increased, WHO has been collecting global data about the influenza A (H1N1) virus resistance to oseltamivir phenomenon from multiple laboratories participating in Global Influenza Surveillance Network. A comprehensive table of influenza A(H1N1)virus resistance to oseltamivir (Fourth quarter 2008 - 31 January 2009) can be found here.

Monitoring for antiviral resistance is an ongoing practice and clinicians and state health departments should continue to follow state and national guidance for submission and testing of clinical specimens from persons with suspected novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infection.

WHO advises no restriction of regular travel or closure of borders. There is no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products. It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities.

World confirmed case counts, frequently asked questions, public health recommendations, and other information on A/H1N1 influenza outbreaks are available at:
www.paho.org  / www.who.int

Links:

The Pan American Health Organization, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It serves as the Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO). PAHO/WHO United States-Mexico Border Office was established in 1942, it continues to facilitate and promote border collaboration with public and private binational institutions and entities involved in improving the health of the population at the Border

 

For more information please contact:
Lorely Ambriz, M.S.I.S ,  Information & Knowledge Management Advisor
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO)
United States-Mexico Border Office
5400 Suncrest Dr. Ste. C-4  El Paso, TX 79912
Office (915) 845-5950 Ext. 23 / Cel (915) 449-3040  / Fax  (915) 845-4361
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   / www.borderinfo.org 

 
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