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The Ministry of Health has been continuing efforts at heightening surveillance and monitoring at the nation’s ports to prevent any possible spread of the Influenza A (H1N1) (Swine Flu) virus in the island.
The MOH has been interviewing arriving air and sea port passengers who are visibly ill and are displaying signs or symptoms of influenza, to check for Influenza A (H1N1) formerly called Swine Flu. In some cases, persons are taken to healthcare facilities to undergo further checks. The Ministry is also checking immigration cards, for persons who have travelled to Influenza A (H1N1) affected areas in the last two weeks.
According to the Ministry’s Director of Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services, Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse, additional health teams have been placed at the ports to ensure that passengers, particularly those arriving from affected locations are adequately assessed for symptoms of the virus. If it is suspected that they may have been exposed (to the virus) or they might be ill, she explained, they are transported to a health facility, where specimen is collected.
These specimens are taken by way of a nasopharyngeal or a throat swab. The nasopharyngeal swab entails the insertion of a flexible, fine-shafted polyester swab into the nostril and back to the nasopharynx, where it is left in place for a few seconds, before it is slowly withdrawn with a rotating motion. During a throat swab, both tonsils and the posterior pharynx are swabbed.
Dr. Bullock-Ducasse explained that individuals who are tested will either be sent home with advice to restrict movement or depending on the severity of their symptoms, they will be referred to a hospital for further care.
Health Alert Cards are also being given to all arriving passengers. These cards provide information about the Influenza A H1N1 virus and inform persons about what to do and who to contact for further information and treatment, should they begin to experience symptoms such as fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny and stuffy nose, extreme tiredness and muscle aches.
The Ministry has also stepped up surveillance of the island’s seaports. Dr. Bullock-Ducasse explained that as is customary, Port Health Workers have been going aboard every vessel that arrives in the island to determine the health status of its occupants. “They board vessels and they determine with the Ship’s Doctor and the documentation, if anybody has been ill on board or has displayed any signs or symptoms of Influenza. Having done their assessment they then advise immigration if persons are able to come off the vessel,” she said.
There have still not been any confirmed cases of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus in Jamaica. However, in light of the rapid spread in other countries, persons are being advised to take all the necessary precautions to prevent any possible influenza virus infection.
These include frequent hand washing with soap and water, covering mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, avoiding contact with persons with flu-like symptoms and avoiding intimate contact including hand shaking, kissing and hugging.
The public can also call the Ministry of Health’s toll free line at 1-888-663-5683 to get information on the Influenza A (H1N1) virus.
Influenza A (H1N1) is a respiratory illness that is caused by the Influenza A virus. It is transmitted by human to human contact. The symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, headache and body aches and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may also be experienced.