The Ministry of Health notes the recent public concerns around Influenza A caused by the H1N1 virus and wishes to advise the public that the island continues to be on an Influenza Alert status, as announced by the Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton, during a presentation to parliament on Tuesday, February 12, 2019. Influenza A H1N1 is an acute respiratory infection caused by the Influenza Type A H1N1 virus and is one of a number of viruses that result in seasonal influenza in the island annually.
The Ministry, however, wishes to highlight that the H1N1virus (pandemic strain 09) has been in circulation in the island since 2009 and cases have been identified each year since except for 2015. This virus has a great potential to cause epidemics and pandemics and therefore every effort must be made to prevent its spread by adhering to strict hygiene protocol, immunization of high risk persons and seeking medical attention when ill, so that treatment can commence at its earliest. While the majority of cases are mild, all influenza viruses have the potential to cause severe illness.
The Ministry has already increased its public awareness campaign and has instituted its enhanced infection control measures in public hospitals and health facilities. In addition, all clinicians have been resensitized to the protocol surrounding treatment and care of the members of the public, who present with symptoms related to any strain of Influenza. The Ministry has also increased stocks of medication in hospitals and health facilities to respond to increase in the number of persons hospitalised and continued and expanded the extended opening hours at health centres to provide access to at-risk populations to include the elderly and children under 5 years old.
The Ministry wishes to reiterate that the flu is to be taken seriously, as it can lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and cause diarrhoea and seizures in children. The flu can also worsen chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease. Persons at highest risk of dangerous complications from the flu are infants and young children, adults 60 years and older, pregnant women, and persons with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems.
The Ministry also takes note and wishes to confirm that there have been deaths that have resulted from complications arising from influenza, including H1N1. The Ministry wishes to remind the public to pay attention to the daily reminders in the print, electronic and social media and encourage all stakeholders to adhere to and practice all protocols relating to handwashing, sneezing and coughing etiquette and use of public spaces and facilities.