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Health minister says more persons could test positive for ZIKA virus

Published:Wednesday | March 23, 2016 | 3:00 AM

With five Jamaicans to date confirmed with the Zika virus, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says there could be additional cases, even as the ministry awaits the results for 145 samples that were sent to Trinidad and Tobago for testing.

Of the five cases of Zika virus locally, four reside in Portmore, St Catherine, while one is from Lyssons, St Thomas.

Speaking yesterday at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Tufton also reported that the National Influenza Centre has reported 71 confirmed cases of influenza so far this year. Of that amount, 66 were Influenza A (H1N1) and the remaining five were different strains of the virus.

Tufton said the six persons who died from H1N1 this year had risk factors for other severe diseases.

The health minister also disclosed that about 90 per cent of front-line health workers in public-health institutions had received the flu vaccine.

"It is a voluntary process. In the past, I am told that between 25 and 30 per cent would opt not to be vaccinated," said Tufton, noting that since the "outbreak and the tragic loss of health practitioners, we have seen a much greater take-up, which, we think, is a good idea".

He said the ministry received 5,000 additional doses of flu vaccine in addition to the 3,000 adult and 400 paediatric doses distributed to the regional health authorities.

"What the data suggest is that we are not necessarily having more cases of persons contracting the flu virus, but those who have got it in an advanced stage, up to H1NI, have got it in a very severe way to the point of it being life threatening," he said.