As Jamaica continues in the influenza ‘flu’ Season, 2019 data show that persons 60 years and older, who are among the high-risk groups, are being severely affected and the Ministry wishes to reiterate that flu is to be taken seriously. Complications of flu include pneumonia and blood infections. Every year, influenza activity in Jamaica begins to increase in October to November, peaks between December to March, and can last until May.
Last year saw six deaths (January to June 2019) from flu (Influenza A (H1N1) pdm09); a third of the deaths have been persons over 60 years old. The Ministry confirms that two strains of flu are currently circulating in Jamaica: Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza A (H1N1) pdm09.
Influenza is a viral infection that spreads easily from person to person, mainly by coughing, sneezing and poor hand hygiene. The influenza viruses circulate worldwide and can affect anybody in any age group, however, children, persons with chronic illness, pregnant women, and the elderly are at high-risk for complications from flu.
Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Karen Webster Kerr reminded that “The Ministry has made available the flu vaccine free of cost in the public health system to high-risk members of the population, including: Healthcare workers; children and elderly with chronic illnesses; pregnant women; individuals who are institutionalised or in state care; and non-health frontline workers.”
Private healthcare providers are encouraged to procure the influenza vaccine through private distributors in order to provide for the general population. Vaccination for influenza is recommended annually (before the start of the flu season).
“Additionally, we remind members of the public to practice good hygiene, including washing hands with soap and water; and covering the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing, which will help to prevent the transmission of the virus.” Dr. Webster Kerr added. “Persons with the flu should get adequate rest, drink plenty of fluids, avoid close contact with other persons and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.”
As necessary, members of the public may visit their doctor or health centre, some of which have extended opening hours.