JIS News

As Jamaicans prepare to congregate at various locations across the island to ring in the New Year, Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Eva Lewis Fuller, is reminding persons with flulike symptoms to stay away from public gatherings, in order to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses such as the influenza virus.
In an interview with JIS News, Dr. Lewis Fuller pointed out that there is usually an increase in influenza cases during these cooler months. “If one knows that he or she is ill then he should stay away from these gatherings because he is putting others at risk,” she advised.
“The influenza virus, like many other pathogens, is spread by droplets which become airborne when people sneeze or cough or even if they talk. Talking can give rise to these droplets. In these drops, you have germs some of these germs are disease causing and we breathe in a lot of these droplets,” she explained.
To those with flulike symptoms, the MOH Health Promotion and Protection Head urged that they observe proper sneezing and cough etiquette to prevent droplets from getting into the respiratory tracts of other persons.
She also cited proper hand washing as an important disease prevention method. “Soap and wash the back of the hands, the nails and in between the webs of the fingers. A good wash lasts for 20 to 30 seconds minimum,” she outlined, adding that “we only really recommend the alcohol – based sanitizers when you do not have running water available.”
Dr. Lewis Fuller is also appealing to event organizers to ensure that venues are properly ventilated. “Person arranging these gatherings should ensure that there is proper ventilation, because when you ‘dilute’ the effects of these droplets then the likelihood of it getting into others persons lungs is reduced,” she said.
Persons with conditions considered high risk for developing complications from the flu and other respiratory illnesses, are asked to seek immediate health care if they begin to experience flulike symptoms.
“If you have an underlying chronic disease such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, if you have any disease that would impair your immune system, if you have a young child under five, at the first sign or symptom of the flu, which includes coughing, sneezing, sore throat fever or general malaise, go to the doctor or health centre straight away,” Dr. Lewis-Fuller advised.
“Do not wait to see what will happen because if you can get the medication which we have available then we could avert any adverse complications occurring,” she emphasized.
She also encouraged persons, who are visibly well to continue exercising vigilance in preventing the onset of symptoms of the influenza virus or other respiratory illness.
“If you suspect that someone is ill, is coughing or have other flulike symptoms, stay away from them; greet them from a distance. For your relatives coming from abroad, many of them are coming from very cold climates where they are having their seasonal flu, encourage them to get vaccinated before coming to Jamaica,” she advised.
“If they have the H1N1 (Influenza A) vaccine available (where they are) then encourage them to have that before they come to Jamaica. That protects them and protects us,” she added.

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