JIS News

The Ministry of Health has activated its emergency operations to coordinate the country’s response to the recent outbreak of Swine Influenza in Mexico, which has since spread to the United States, Canada and parts of Europe.
Speaking with JIS News, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, assured the nation that the Ministry has been closely monitoring international reports and is in “a high state of readiness” to respond to the Swine Influenza, should local cases be confirmed. She attributed the Ministry’s level of preparedness to the response mechanisms instituted over the years to combat any possible outbreak of the Avian Influenza (Bird Flu).
“We have had an influenza preparedness plan for some time because we were preparing for the Avian Influenza so we have pulled our plan and have been meeting with our staff to implement the actions,” she explained.
The CMO informed JIS News that national level meetings have been held to assess and enhance surveillance systems at the nation’s ports, health facilities as well as in the private sector. All health regions, she said, have been briefed of their role in preventing or controlling this strain of the influenza virus. Public laboratories, she noted further, have been placed on call in the event of a swine flu outbreak.
“Our laboratories…will assist us in our collection (of specimen). The University (Hospital) is one of the sites but we will also be sending specimens to the Caribbean Epidemiological Centre for testing,” she pointed out.
Dr. Campbell-Forrester explained that while surveillance arrangements have always been in place at the island’s ports, these will be strengthened to respond to the threat of the Swine flu.
“We are working at all levels to beef up security. Ministry officials will also be walking the lines at the ports and will be asking where they (passengers) have been within the last two weeks, she said, noting that, “we expect that some people will be coming from Mexico because there is a fair amount of travel between Mexico and Jamaica.” She said that goods shipped into the island will also be assessed.
She urged passengers arriving at the island’s ports, including those arriving from Mexico, to fill out the section on the landing form, which asks for places visited in the past six weeks. “With this information, we will be better able to track those individuals and assess the status of their health,” she pointed out.
Arriving passengers, who are experiencing flu like symptoms, are being asked to report to assigned Quarantine Officers at the surveillance posts and inform them of these symptoms.
“These measures feed in to the various health departments’ surveillance system right up to the Ministry of Health. Those who are very ill will be referred to one of our health facilities or to a private facility, which understands what is happening and can take the appropriate action for treatment and referral,” Dr. Campbell-Forrester explained.
In the meantime, the CMO informed that Jamaica has not issued an advisory barring travel to Mexico, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not yet indicated or issued an alert for countries to do so. She however urges persons, who are planning to travel to affected countries, to assess the situation and take the necessary precautions before they travel.

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