• JIS News

    In light of the current outbreak of the Swine Influenza worldwide, Minister of Health and Environment, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has announced that an additional supply of 1,000 doses of antiviral medication used to combat the ‘Flu’, will arrive in the island within two weeks.
    This supply will be in addition to 450 doses of the anti-virals that the Ministry currently has in stock, Mr. Spencer told a Post Cabinet briefing at Jamaica House yesterday (April 29).
    The World Health Organisation (WHO) today raised the pandemic alert level from four to five. According to WHO, the phase five alert means there is sustained human to human transmission of the disease in at least two countries. It also signals that efforts to produce a vaccine will be ramped up. On Monday (April 27), WHO had raised the alert level from three to four.
    Even though WHO has not yet developed vaccination for the flu, two anti-virals – Tamiflu and Zanamivir- have been recommended for the treatment and prevention of ‘Swine Flu’.
    The Ministry has already ramped up surveillance activities at health care facilities and ports of entry. Health sector workers have also been alerted to ensure early detection of the ‘flu’. In addition, a public awareness and education programme started today (April 29) with daily press releases and other materials being issued.
    “We have notified people at sea ports, and that’s very important because we overlook the seaport most times, and, at the airport, we have beefed up our security, (with) two or three additional nurses. But, more importantly, we are informing the public through various media, and we have people going around, starting today, with leaflets, advising them what to do,” Mr. Spencer said.
    He noted that the Port Authority of Jamaica has issued masks and gloves to their workers, as a preventative measure.
    The Health Minister also said that particular focus will be placed on travellers from Costa Rica and Mexico, where the epidemic originated.
    “We are more interested in those people coming to Jamaica from Mexico, now these might be tourists, hotel people…and so what we are doing, we are paying strict attention to those people who have travelled; we want to ensure that there are no flu-like symptoms,” the Minister said.
    In explaining the procedure, he said that once persons who have travelled to Mexico return to the island, they will be immediately taken out of the line and questioned. If persons display flu-like symptoms, they will be kept in quarantine for a short period of time and treated, if it is found that they are carrying the virus.
    The Ministry has also activated a command post as a precautionary measure to ensure coordination of the response to the ‘swine flu’. A toll free line – 1-888-663-5683,which members of the public can call to get additional information on the virus, has been activated.
    The Minister also advised persons to continue to observe basic hygienic practices by “washing your hands and more importantly, use sanitisers.”
    “If people around you sound like they have flu, don’t allow them to cough in your area, keep your distance from them,” he added.
    The Ministry’s ramping up efforts to tackle possible ‘swine flu’ cases is being carried out at a cost of $12 million. There have been no reported cases of the flu in Jamaica to date.

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