Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Health ministry increases surveillance for flu virus

Published:Wednesday | December 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Ministry of Health has increased its surveillance for cases of Influenza A (H1N1), in light of the outbreak of the virus in other parts of the Caribbean.

"There are no reports of the H1N1 virus in Jamaica; however, with frequent travel, we are on the lookout for it," said Director of Health Promotion and Protection Sonia Copeland.

"We have an influenza surveillance system all year round. Our samples are tested at our National Influenza Centre (University of the West Indies) and every week a report is sent to the ministry so that we can determine the trends," she said.

Copeland informed that the fever-scanning machines at the island's two main airports in Kingston and Montego Bay will aid in the detection of elevated body temperatures of arriving passengers. A high fever is one of the symptoms of the H1N1 virus.

"It would be persons who are having fever and also exhibiting signs and symptoms of influenza (who would be tested)," said the director.

Copeland is advising persons to visit their doctor for treatment if they are experiencing any of these symptoms.

In the meantime, Chief Medical Officer Marion Bullock DuCasse said that as part of the ministry's surveillance system, samples from public health facilities are routinely sent for testing to the National Influenza Centre.

"We are now in the flu season, so citizens have to be extra careful in terms of preventing themselves from becoming infected and also from transferring infection to others," DuCasse said.

Good hygiene practices

DuCasse is reminding persons to observe good hygiene practices by taking the following precautions: Clean hands frequently with soap and water; cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing; control the spread of germs by avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth with dirty hands; avoid contact with persons with flu-like symptoms; and avoid intimate contact, including handshaking and kissing.

Influenza A (H1N1) is a respiratory illness that is caused by the Influenza A virus. The symptoms include fever greater than 1008F, sore throat, sneezing, coughing, runny and stuffy nose, headache and body aches and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may also be experienced.