SRI LANKA – The Health Ministry yesterday warned of a possible influenza A and B virus outbreak and appealed to the people to rush patients in the risk group to the nearest hospital if cough and fever continued for more than a day after treatment. Health Services Director General Dr. Mahipala identified expectant mothers, those over 65 years of age and children less than two years and those with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure and coronary heart diseases as those vulnerable. The Health Ministry sprung to accelerate its influenza preventive drive when the number of deaths from influenza rose to four yesterday when another expectant mother with diabetes died at the Castle Street Maternity Hospital and the number of patients rose to 538 island-wide. Dr. Mahipala said 108 PSR (Percutaneous Steriotactic Radiofrequency) tests conducted from among 538 specimens received by the Medical Research Institute (MRI) in April were positive for influenza. 13 of the 44 samples obtained from expectant mothers were also positive for influenza. Dr. Mahipala said the influenza A or B was not fatal but could harm the respiratory system and lungs. Therefore early treatment is extremely vital and said 87out of 221 samples analyzed by MRI in the first week of May were also found to be positive for influenza. He advised the public to rush influenza patients to the nearest hospital immediately and use a mask when talking to them as influenza virus contaminates air when the patients speak and cough. A circular sent out by the DGHS has instructed health authorities to give a short training to health staff of their respective establishments on handling and treatment of influenza patients, Dr. Mahipala stressed.