Parliamentary Statement Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, MP Re: Influenza Season 2019/2020

Mr. Speaker, I wish to update this honourable house and again members of the public, regarding the status of Influenza in Jamaica. Every year, influenza activity in Jamaica begins to increase in October to November, peaks between December to March, and can last until May.

Influenza is a viral infection, Mr. Speaker 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.

Mr. Speaker, 2019 data from the Ministry of Health & Wellness shows 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, as complications of flu include pneumonia and blood infections.

Last year saw six deaths, Mr. Speaker, between January and June 2019 from flu (Influenza A (H1N1) pdm09); a third of the deaths, Mr. Speaker, have been persons over 60 years old.

Mr. Speaker, as we continue in the flu season, the Ministry confirms that two strains of flu are currently circulating in Jamaica: Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza A (H1N1) pdm09.

In addition to the health promotions thrust as all levels Mr. Speaker, 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.

A total of 25,400 doses of trivalent influenza vaccine (northern hemisphere formulation) has been purchased and distributed through the regional health authority network.

Preliminary reports from the National Epidemiology database show that a total of 2,370 doses of the vaccine have been were administered in November and December 2019.

I wish to you this opportunity to implore persons, who fall in the high risk groups, to ensure that they are vaccinated against the flu.

At the same time, Mr. Speaker, I encourage private healthcare providers to procure the influenza vaccine through private distributors in order to provide for the general population.

Mr. Speaker, vaccination for influenza is recommended annually, before the start of the flu season.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to remind members of this honourable house and 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.

Persons with the flu, Mr. Speaker, should get adequate rest, drink plenty of fluids, avoid close contact with other persons and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Persons are also encouraged Mr. Speaker, to, as necessary, visit their doctor or health centre, some of which have extended opening hours.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to reiterate that the flu is no joke and every precaution is to be taken to guard against the flu. Thank you.