Jamaica warns of possible outbreak of influenza virus

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Jamaica warns of possible outbreak of influenza virus
Dr. Christopher Tufton
Dr. Christopher Tufton

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 13, CMC – Jamaica has warned of a possible outbreak of an influenza virus with hospitals across the island being faced with a list of persons waiting to be admitted as a result.

“The experts in the ministry, epidemiologists and the various satellite locations across the country, the A&E (Accident and Emergency) departments in a number of hospitals, observation, analysis and data collection suggest that we are bordering on an outbreak of this particular type of influenza,” Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton told the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Health is warning persons to be on the alert for the virus and Tufton said that the authorities have recorded an increase in cases over the past two weeks.

The influenza virus, which can be spread easily by person-to-person contact mainly by coughing and sneezing, includes fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, headache and muscle ache.

“What it means, we are seeing it manifesting itself in the A&E where a number of persons are turning up with upper respiratory issues. Persons who have to be admitted which is amplifying the shortage of beds and so there are probably eight or nine hospitals now… where you have 10, 15, 30 persons waiting to be admitted with these symptoms.

‘We are seeing many cases of people waiting with respiratory illnesses to be admitted but the capacity of these institutions just not there to deal with the numbers, ad so the public will experience some inconvenience over time until we bring this situation under control,” he added.

He said given the data and Jamaica’s international obligations in terms of tracking trends and looking at the average numbers we felt it was just necessary to raise the alarm to say we are moving in a particular direction which is of concern and as a consequence we have to trigger some additional measures to raise awareness and treatment.”

Tufton told legislators that the Ministry of Health will immediately enhance its public education programme to promote good hygiene practices, activating measures within hospitals, increasing stocks of medication at hospitals since the situation could lead to pneumonia and blood infections as well as causing seizures in children.

“The flu can also worsen chronic medical situations….such as heart or lung diseases,” he said, noting that persons at greater risk as a result of the flu are infants and young children, adults 65 years and older as well as pregnant women.

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