Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has assured the country that the health authorities were fully prepared to deal with the two cases of Influenza A (H1N1) virus confirmed in Jamaica on Friday (May 29) and ensure containment.
“Our surveillance system was able to quickly detect the cases, and we have initiated our response plan to ensure containment,” Mr. Spencer told a press briefing at Jamaica House today (Monday June 1).
He said that the two persons had recently travelled from New York in the United States, and that investigations into household contacts have been completed.
The Minister cautioned that while the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not put in place any travel restrictions, his Ministry is advising persons to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from any possible influenza infection.
Health Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer (left),emphasises a point during Monday’s media briefing at Jamaica House to provide an update on the Influenza A (H1N1) virus. Beside him are Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester (centre), and Director of Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services in the Ministry, Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse.
“These include frequent hand washing with soap and water, covering mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing and avoiding contact with persons with flu-like symptoms,” he explained.
The Minister said that Jamaica’s surveillance and monitoring systems have been on high alert and health authorities have been prepared for any cases.
“We have scaled up our surveillance activities at hospitals, health centres and our ports of entry. Routine surveillance systems have been in place to collect data for selected diseases and conditions, such as fevers and respiratory illness, from Sentinel sites and through hospital active surveillance,” he said.
He explained that Sentinel sites are specially selected health facilities in the public and private sectors, which report daily on priority diseases and conditions.
To date, 362 samples have been collected, including 129 from suspected cases. Of this amount, 70 results are available, of which 13 were positive for seasonal influenza and two for the new Influenza A H1N1.
Results are being collated for the remaining samples taken within the routine surveillance system, and the number of Sentinel sites have been increased from 66 to 100.
Surveillance has been strengthened at the ports of entry. Immigration and other port workers have been distributed more than 150,000 health alert cards with information on the disease, precautionary measures to be taken and how to contact health care workers.
“These are given to all arriving passengers. We have increased the number of health desks at some of our ports and additional public health teams have been working at the ports of entry,” the Minister assured the country.
He added that a stockpile of antivirals, which have been found to reduce the severity of the current disease, and 3,500 doses of Tamiflu have been provided, through the Pan American Health Organisation(PAHO).
A co-ordinated public awareness and education campaign was launched in April and, since then, the Ministry has been sending out daily press releases to update the public. Over 500,000 flyers and 8,000 posters have been printed and circulated, and commercials and public service announcements are being run in the print and electronic media.
The Ministry’s Command Post has been activated and calls are being taken on a toll-free line, 1-888-663-5683 or 1-888-ONE-LOVE.
The Ministry has also been working closely with WHO, PAHO and the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) to ensure that Jamaica’s response meets international standards.