Health sector preparing for influenza cases


February 23, 2016

The Ministry of Health, through its National Emergency Operations Centre, has been putting measures in place to prepare the health sector for any possible increase in the number of influenza cases.

Minister of Health, Horace Dalley said he has instructed the team to activate the national influenza plan. "We have been reviewing our systems to ensure that we are able to manage any increase in cases that may come at our public-health facilities. The team has been instructed to ensure that the necessary resources are put in place across all the regional health authorities," Minister Dalley said.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Winston De La Haye, said the ministry has been monitoring symptoms associated with Influenza viruses through its surveillance system, and has noted an increase in cases over the last six weeks.

As a result, doctors have been advised to report cases of influenza on suspicion within 24 hours.

"We have confirmed 10 cases since the start of the year, and so far identified two strains of influenza viruses that are circulating among the population. Nine of the 10 cases are H1N1. That nine includes one death. We have been strengthening our systems and increasing our supplies of medication to deal with this increase," Dr De La Haye said.

Additional supplies of Tamiflu, used to treat H1N1, have been acquired with more supplies to come. The CMO noted, however, that Tamiflu is only used to treat symptoms in severely affected patients and does not prevent illness.

Other measures put in place include frontline staff being offered the flu vaccine, isolation areas in hospitals prepared, additional equipment, testing capacity increased and increased public education.

Dr De La Haye is, however, urged citizens to take steps to protect themselves and others from infection by observing proper hygiene practices.

Persons can take the following precautions:

1. Clean hands frequently with soap and water

2. Cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing

3. Control the spread of germs, avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with dirty hands

4. Avoid contact with persons with flu-like symptoms

5. Avoid intimate contact including hand shaking and kissing

Influenza is a viral respiratory illness that presents with symptoms including fever, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, headache, body aches and fatigue.

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