UPDATE: H1N1 in Jamaica but not Swine Flu strain, says Health Ministry
Danae Hyman, Online Reporter
The health ministry is confirming that the H1N1 virus is in Jamaica but says that the type present is not the swine flu strain.
According to Nicole Dawkins-Wright, acting director of emergency, disaster management and special services in the ministry, the characteristics of the strains are different, but the manifestations, or symptoms, are the same.
The symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue.
"H1N1 has been circulating every year in Jamaica since 2009. While there is no difference in the manifestation of the H1N1 virus and the swine flu, it is the strain which makes them different," Dawkins-Wright told The Gleaner.
She added that the ministry had issued an advisory earlier this year that there was an increase in influenza-like illnesses, predominantly H1N1.
However, checks made by The Gleaner revealed only an advisory about an increase in influenza cases.
There has been heightened anxiety since broadcaster Alan Magnus reported this morning that his wife, Kerry, died last Friday from the HINI virus, commonly called swine flu.
Medical doctor and opposition spokesperson on health Dr Dayton Campbell said that the public should not focus on the slight differences in the strains of the H1N1 virus.
"H1N1 influenza would still be the group of symptoms; they still present in the exact same way. What the ministry ought to do is to inform the public that the virus is here.
"They have the complications and everything; swine flu, H1N1, all of them are covered in the same vaccine, so I don't know what the differentiation they are trying to make is, I'm not following," Campbell said.
Making reference to the ministry's advisory, Campbell charged that it did not inform the public of the presence of the virus in the island and the extent of the issue but rather highlighted general information.
The opposition spokesman said that he has been made aware that there are currently patients in the Intensive Care Unit at the University Hospital of West Indies suffering from the virus, as well of as a death that occurred in St Catherine.
"That is not something you should be coy about, that is not something you should hide from the population," Campbell said.
He emphasised that Jamaicans cannot protect themselves from the virus if they are not informed by the health ministry that it is in the island.
About Swine Flu
The Influenza A (H1N1) virus is a contagious respiratory illness.
It caused a pandemic in 2009.
Although often referred to as ‘swine flu’, this name is misleading as it is not spread by contact with pigs or pig products.
H1NI continues to circulate around the world.
Typically, the flu season in the region occurs between September and March when there is usually an increase in the number of persons coming down with the virus.
Who Is At Risk?
Yearly influenza epidemics can seriously affect all populations, but the highest risk of complications occur among children younger than age five years and especially younger than two years; adults aged 65 years or older; pregnant women; persons of any age with certain medical conditions, such as chronic heart, lung, kidney, liver, blood or metabolic diseases (such as diabetes), any non-communicable disease, respiratory illnesses (asthma, bronchitis, etc); and persons with weakened immune systems.
Deaths are usually among persons in these high-risk groups.
Seasonal influenza, including H1N1, is highly contagious and spreads quite easily, sweeping through close-knit, highly populated areas like schools, workplaces, hospitals, children's homes, homes for the elderly, communities, etc.
How Is Swine Flu Spread?
It spreads from one infected person to others via:
- Coughing. When an infected person coughs, infected droplets get into the air and another person can breathe them in and be exposed.
- Talking closely to persons
- Other forms of intimacy