Health and Wellness Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says that the Government is taking the necessary steps to avert a possible ‘triple threat’ outbreak of dengue fever, the coronavirus (COVID 19) and the influenza across the island.
Speaking at a digital press conference at the S Hotel in Montego Bay, St. James, recently, Dr. Tufton said that if there is an upsurge of all three viruses simultaneously, the healthcare system would be hard-pressed to cope.
“We are trying to jump ahead of what could be a triple public health threat facing the population – COVID 19, dengue, the flu. The triple threat is one that we should first and foremost be aware of and then make the necessary interventions to ensure the best public health outcomes for the people of Jamaica,” he said.
Minister Tufton explained that in light of the recent increase in rainfall, Jamaicans should exercise vigilance against dengue by employing the necessary preventive measures, including searching for and destroying mosquito breeding sites.
He said that local medical experts project that Jamaica could record more than 300 dengue cases and three to five dengue deaths per week if individuals are complacent in the fight against the mosquito-borne disease, which is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
“COVID-19, while a major challenge, and even with the progress we have made and are making, becomes a lot more challenging and if we encounter an upsurge in what we would normally have this time of year because of the rains, which is the Aedes aegypti index,” he said.
“We are in the season where normally we see that index rise and the threat that it represents in terms of dengue. Added to that, we are also in the flu season and what that means too, given the severity of the flu, particularly for segments of the population. COVID-19 could become that more challenging if we have a dengue challenge and a flu challenge at the same time,” he stressed.
Minister Tufton pointed out that the three viruses have similar symptoms, which can make it hard for persons to determine which of the three they have contracted.
In that regard, he encouraged persons to get vaccinated against the flu, which has been proven to mitigate serious flu-related complications.
He noted that more than 23,000 doses of the flu vaccine arrived in the island recently.
“Take it if you have access to it; seek it out if you’re vulnerable, because this triple threat that we face could be that much worse for you if you avoid the preventive methods and you end up getting one or a combination of the three,” he advised.