Jamaica activates national influenza plan following spike in Swine Flu cases

The Ministry of Health is putting measures in place to prepare the health sector for more influenza cases, following an increase in cases of H1N1, commonly referred to as Swine Flu, and one death linked to that illness. And Minister of Health Horace Dalley says he has instructed the National Emergency Operations Centre 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,” he said.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye says the ministry has been monitoring symptoms associated with influenza viruses through its surveillance system and has noted an increase in cases over the past 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 ten 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.

Over the weekend, a female doctor who was infected with H1N1, died in hospital. It was the first H1N1-related death in Jamaica.
The ministry says additional supplies of Tami Flu, used to treat H1N1, have been acquired with more supplies to come. But Dr. De La Haye noted 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 being increased and increased public education.

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

Influenza is a viral respiratory illness that presents with symptoms including fever, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, headache and body aches and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also be experienced.
Influenza viruses are mainly spread from person to person through droplets produced while coughing or sneezing, or by persons touching surfaces contaminated with droplets. (Caribbean 360)

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