(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — The Ministry of Health has placed the country on alert following a significant increase in the number of cases of fever and respiratory (influenza-like) illnesses since the start of the year.
Seasonal influenza (the “flu”) is an acute viral infection that spreads easily from person to person mainly by coughing, sneezing and close contact.
Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton, this afternoon told Parliament that data captured by the syndromic surveillance system from the 78 sentinel sites throughout the country, shows an increasing trend in this syndrome.
“This is may indicate an early warning for an influenza increase,” said Tufton, noting that trends are done for three age groups — children under five years old , five to 59 years old and persons 60 years and older.
Parishes that have shown an increasing trend in the virus include Kingston & St Andrew, Trelawny, Clarendon, Manchester, St Elizabeth and Portland.
Tufton emphasised 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 greater risk of dangerous complications from the flu are infants and young children, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, and persons with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems.
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In the meantime, the minister informed that, in preparation for this flu season, a total of 21,900 doses of Influenza vaccine were purchased by the ministry through the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Revolving Fund for vaccines and distributed to parish health departments in late October 2018.
He also vaccination of target groups commenced in November 2018.