CARPHA issues warning ahead of influenza season

CARPHA said that the seasonal influenza affects many thousands of people in the region annually and as the 2015 season approaches, it is advising that persons practice good hygiene measures, including covering your mouth with a tissue or handkerchief, or using your elbow, when sneezing or coughing as well as safely disposing of used tissues.

CARPHA executive director Dr. James Hospedales, said that the “primary form of influenza transmission is through interpersonal contact.

“Given elevated flu activity in the United States, combined with the high travel season to the Caribbean, it is important that persons take the necessary steps now, to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu,” he added.

His warning comes as health authorities in Jamaica say they are closely monitoring the outbreak of measles in the United States and Mexico and are urging parents to have their children immunized for the disease.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse said Jamaica is monitoring the situation in North America where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has reported 84 cases during the first 28 days of the year.

“Despite this, we have seen how diseases can cross borders, and so we have to ensure that we keep a close watch on the situation in the US and any other country where measles cases occur,” Dr Bullock DuCasse said in a statement.

“All Jamaicans are, therefore, urged to ensure that they and their children are protected,” she added.

The most common symptoms of measles include fever, conjunctivitis or sore eyes, and a runny nose. Patients could also suffer from small white spots, which usually develop inside the mouth, a harsh dry cough, reduced appetite, tiredness, aches and pains.

“Measles is caused by a virus and is highly contagious. It is spread through direct contact and through the air,” said the Ministry of Health, noting that complications include pneumonia and can lead to death.

But Dr Bullock DuCasse said Jamaica has been free of endemic or local transmission of measles since 1991 and said this is because of the country’s expanded immunisation programme.

CARPHA said that the most effective way to prevent the disease or severe outcomes from the illness is vaccination.

“Safe and effective vaccines have been available and used for more than 60 years. Among healthy adults, influenza vaccine can prevent 70 to 90 per cent of influenza-specific illness. Among the elderly, the vaccine reduces severe illnesses and complications by up to 60 per cent and deaths by 80 per cent,” CARPHA said.

It said that most deaths associated with influenza occur among people age 65 or older.


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