The Ministry of Health through its National Emergency Operations Centre has been putting measures in place to prepare the health sector for any possible increase in the number of influenza cases.
Minister of Health, Hon. Horace Dalley says he has instructed the team to activate the national influenza plan. “We have been reviewing our systems to ensure that we are able to manage any increase in cases that may come at our public health facilities. The team has been instructed to ensure that the necessary resources are put in place across all the Regional Health Authorities,” Minister Dalley said.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Winston De La Haye says the Ministry has been monitoring symptoms associated with Influenza viruses through its surveillance system and has noted an increase in cases over the past six weeks.
As a result doctors have been advised to report cases of influenza on suspicion within 24 hours.
“We have confirmed ten cases since the start of the year and so far identified two strains of influenza viruses that are circulating among the population. Nine of the ten cases are H1N1. That nine includes one death. We have been strengthening our systems and increasing our supplies of medication to deal with this increase,” Dr. De La Haye said.
Additional supplies of Tami Flu used to treat H1N1 have been acquired with more supplies to come. The CMO noted however that Tamiflu is only used to treat symptoms in severely affected patients and does not prevent illness.
Other measures put in place include frontline staff being offered the flu vaccine, isolation areas in hospitals prepared, additional equipment, testing capacity being increased and increased public education.
Dr. De La Haye is however urging citizens to take steps to protect themselves and others from infection by observing proper hygiene practices.
Persons can take the following precautions:
- Clean hands frequently with soap and water
- Cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing
- Control the spread of germs: avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with dirty hands
- Avoid contact with persons with flu-like symptoms
- Avoid intimate contact including hand shaking and kissing
Influenza is a viral respiratory illness that presents with symptoms including fever, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, headache and body aches and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also be experienced. Influenza viruses are mainly spread from person to person through droplets produced while coughing or sneezing or by persons touching surfaces contaminated with droplets.
Individuals who wish to obtain more information may call the Ministry of Health or the nearest health centre. Persons may also visit our website at moh.gov.jm and like and follow us on www.facebook.com/themohgovjm; https://twitter.com/themohgovjm; https://instagram.com/themohgovjm.