A series of preventive measures to deal with and monitor the outbreak of streptococcal infections in Cyprus was taken on Monday by the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Cyprus Pediatric Society.
In the morning, at the Ministry of Health, a meeting to review the situation and take measures.
In his statements after the meeting, the Minister of Health Michalis Hatzipantela said that our country has special relations with the United Kingdom and many of the infections we have in Cyprus coming from there are due to students and other Cypriots living in the UK and traveling Christmas in Cyprus.
Taking into account these facts, the Ministry of Health, he said, decided to hold a meeting with the Paediatrics Society and Ministry officials to review the situation in the hospitals of Cyprus at the moment.
“The situation is manageable at the moment, fortunately we do not have any cases in our country but we will not be complacent, and we have decided on the additional measures,” he said.
The first measure, said Mr. Hatzipantela, is to prepare updated guidelines from the Ministry of Health, which will be sent to the Pediatric Society so that it, in turn, can send them to all its members. At the same time, these instructions will be sent to the Pancypriot Medical Association as well as to the OAU so that they can be sent to personal physicians.
The second measure, continued Mr. Hatzipantela, is the effort to immediately make strep test available, which detects the virus in time, from the Ministry of Health to pediatricians. As he said, a proposal will be forwarded tomorrow to the Council of Ministers to set a ceiling for a maximum price of 5 euros for carrying out these tests.
Also, said the Minister, there will be monitoring by the epidemiological team of the Ministry of Health and weekly review to decide on that basis whether further action needs to be taken.
Asked if there were any specific instructions for travelers to the UK, Mr Hadjipantela said they should be cautious and if children have any symptoms they should speak to their personal doctor and paediatrician.
The President of the Pediatric Society, Michalis Anastasiadis, said in his turn that the subject of the emergency meeting was to examine the situation with the outbreak of streptococcal infections, “this microbial infection which is well known in the pediatric community and which indeed appears to be in recent weeks with an increased frequency of incidents”.
Mr. Anastasiadis said that they completely agree with the measures announced by the Minister, and at the same time called on the Society's members to increase even more awareness and vigilance for early diagnosis and treatment. “Here we are talking about a microbial infection for which there is an effective treatment, there are the appropriate antibiotics which, after early diagnosis, can be treated and used to treat all these infections,” he said.
Mr. Anastasiadis said that fortunately cases of invasive disease, such as those that led to the death of some children in the United Kingdom and Spain, have not been recorded, but neither have hospitalizations from this particular strain. “As a precautionary measure, we are treating this phenomenon with due care by informing both health professionals and the public, while calling on them to remain calm as there is no reason for real concern at this time,” he said, noting that the increase in cases is faced and will be faced with the weapons we have at our disposal.
When asked if there are any indications of the cause of this outbreak, Mr. Anastasiadis said that there are various theories surrounding the outbreak and the scientific community has not come to a conclusion where it is due as no other new strain has been identified to cause this invasive disease.
Most likely, he said, the conditions in the post-COVID era that have led to the outbreak of all other viral infections have also led to this outbreak. In this case, he continued, we have a microbial infection which is treated by the use of the appropriate drugs available to medicine. We also have the diagnostic tools, he said, trying to systematically record the progress of the phenomenon with the cooperation of all services under the supervision of the Ministry.
When asked about the symptoms of the disease, Mr. Anastasiadis said that in addition to the well-known manifestation of high fever and sore throat, in some cases there is also a characteristic rash that characterizes scarlet fever, one of the well-known childhood diseases that parents and pediatricians know very well. He said that what parents should worry about is when the child's general condition is particularly affected with a prolonged fever.
Mr. Anastasiadis said that the ages of the children concerned with the disease are over three years old, and therefore these incidents are not easy to escape the attention of parents. “We think that what is happening in the UK probably has to do with factors beyond the severity of the disease itself that have to do with the immediate response of the health system there. We believe that with the conditions we have in Cyprus, with the immediate accessibility to children's doctors, we will not experience such phenomena”, he concluded.
In relation to the situation with the coronavirus, and when asked about it, the Minister said that the hospitalizations are 87 today and there is not currently any thought to restore the mask. At the same time, he said, we must send the message to the world, and especially to people over 60 years old, that they must be vaccinated immediately with the first or second booster dose because with vaccination alone there will be no additional hospitalizations.