JIS News

Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has said that the current Swine Influenza epidemic has serious implications for the Jamaican economy and, in response the country has been placed on “high alert”.
He said that, the Ministry has “scaled-up” surveillance activities at health care facilities and ports of entry, health sector workers have been alerted to ensure early detection and anti-virals, which have been found to reduce the severity of the disease, have been stocked to initiate treatment.
A public awareness and education plan is being implemented, and daily press releases will be issued as of Wednesday (April 29), the Ministry’s command post has been activated to ensure co-ordination of response and international co-operation to ensure that Jamaica’s response meet international standards.
Mr. Spencer was making a statement in the House of Representatives today (April 27,) on the global Swine Influenza crisis and Jamaica’s response.
“Although there have been no reported cases in Jamaica thus far, given the porosity of our borders and the unrestricted movement of people and trade, this epidemic has serious implications for Jamaica’s economy and a number of its sectors including tourism, education, security and social interaction. Consequently, the country has been placed on high alert,” Mr. Spencer said.
“Our health systems will remain on high alert. We are already and properly prepared to respond to this public health threat. Our health workers are well trained. We have confidence in our team of seasoned and experienced professionals who have, time and again, demonstrated why they are considered the best in the world,” he added.
He said that, at this time, the priorities cover six areas:
(1)Heightened SurveillanceThe Ministry has scaled -up surveillance activities at health care facilities and the ports of entry. Routine surveillance systems are in place to collect data for selected diseases and conditions, such as fevers and respiratory illness, from sentinel sites and through hospital active surveillance; Immigration and other port workers have been alerted. Health desks have been set up at the ports and additional public health teams assigned. Health Alert Cards, with information on the disease, are being distributed and precautionary measures being taken on how to contact health workers. Informal ports are being monitored.
(2)Health Sector MobilisationWe have alerted health sector workers in the public and private sectors to ensure early detection and diagnosis by the submission of appropriate specimens. All regions, parish health departments, hospitals and medical groups have been contacted. Training has been undertaken in the implementation of the emergency plan. Technical materials are being prepared for distribution during the week;
(3) Availability of Drugs for TreatmentAnti-virals have been found to reduce the severity of the disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a stockpile of appropriate drugs for the region, which will be released if suspected cases are reported in Jamaica. Two anti-virals- Tamiflu and Zanamivir- are recommended for treatment and prevention of the disease. At this time, the Ministry has stocks of anti-virals to initiate treatment, as needed;
(4) Inter-sectoral Collaboration StrengthenedThe Ministry of Health has already started discussions with the Office of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), senior officials of partner Ministries, such as Tourism, Agriculture and the Immigration Department to ensure sharing of information and co-ordinated implementation of plans. Relevant meetings will be convened with all sectors during the course of this week;
(5) Co-ordinated Public Awareness and EducationOur Public Awareness and Education Plan has been reviewed and is being implemented, with daily press releases and materials to start distribution tomorrow(Wednesday, April 29). The Ministry’s Command Post has been activated as a precautionary measure to ensure co-ordination of our response. A toll free line has also been activated and is open to the public at 1-888-663-5683. The Director in charge of the Post is Dr. Marion Bullock, who will be the Ministry’s chief spokesperson on the disease.
(6) International Co-operationThe Ministry of Health is working closely with WHO, PAHO and the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) to ensure that Jamaica’s response meets international standards. The senior technical team is teleconferencing with PAHO and teams from the Centre for Disease Control and Protection and Health Canada, to obtain up-to-date information on the new virus and its characteristics and the best strategies to minimise the spread of the disease.
Mr. Spencer appealed to the public to remain calm, and called on visitors to and from Jamaica to provide full and accurate information to the health teams and immigration officials.
“The situation may change rapidly and, therefore, it is important to monitor the health bulletins that will be disseminated through the media. We continue to encourage people to practice good hygiene with frequent hand washing with soap and water or the use of a sanitiser,” he said.
“Contact your health provider, if you are experiencing severe illness and flu, especially if you have travelled abroad recently, or been in contact with persons who have travelled,” he stated.
“We ask the Jamaican people to work with our health and immigration officers, as we seek to protect our borders and minimise the impact of this epidemic on our country,” he concluded.

Skip to content