Treat the Flu as a serious health matter – MOHW

The Ministry of Health & Wellness is advising members of the public that we are in the Influenza ‘flu’ Season and is reiterating that the flu is to be taken seriously, as it can lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and can cause severe symptoms including diarrhoea and seizures in children. Influenza, commonly referred to as the ‘Flu’ is an acute viral infection that spreads easily from person to person, mainly by coughing, sneezing and through close contact. The viruses circulate worldwide and can affect anybody in any age group; however children and the elderly are at high risk, with symptoms varying by age and include fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose. Every year, Influenza activity in Jamaica often begins to increase in October to November, peaks between December to March, and can last as late as May. 

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie, cautioned that “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 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 statecare; 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. The flu vaccination is recommended annually every flu season.

“At the same time, we want to 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. Bisasor McKenzie added. “Persons with the flu should get adequate rest, avoid close contact 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.