Health Ministry Seeking To Cope With Flu Outbreak

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Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John????

The recent surge in the incidence of reported cases of persons across the island exhibiting flu-like symptoms is putting some strain on the public health care services. As a result, according to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, the Ministry of Health and its eight polyclinics are under great pressure to maintain the usual level of services to the public.

Dr. St. John cautioned that "the situation will get worse over time, since the country has not reached the peak of the influenza outbreak."?? She revealed that, in an attempt to manage this development, while aiming to accommodate the large number of persons seeking medical attention with flu symptoms, the Ministry has had to curtail some of the public health services offered. These include deferment of some dental clinics, child health assessments that are not due for immunization, and health education sessions. In addition, some patients are being issued with repeat prescriptions and longer than normal appointments.

The CMO has again advised "those persons who may be exhibiting flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever, coughing and sore throat) to stay home from work and school until they are fever-free for 24hrs without the use of fever reducing medication. If the symptoms persist and or worsen, then these persons should go to their doctor or polyclinic immediately. However, it is not necessary for everyone without underlying conditions to seek medical attention at the outset of these symptoms, BUT ONLY if the initial symptoms persist and or worsen."

She said: "Where high risk categories and conditions are concerned – pregnant women, children under five years of age, persons 65 years and older who suffer with heart disease or stroke, and those with chronic medical conditions, including asthma and other lung conditions, sickle cell anaemia, heart disease, diabetes, and any other condition which may weaken the immune system – these persons should seek medical attention at the onset of the symptoms."

The CMO noted that there had been a number of queries from the public about appropriate medication to counter this particular influenza outbreak, especially for the higher risk categories. She said: "at present, Tamiflu is being recommended. However, it is only necessary for the abovementioned groups, and those persons who need hospitalisation.

Persons with flu-like symptoms, attending health care facilities, should, immediately on arrival, inform the staff of their symptoms and they may be required to sit in a specially designated area and or wear a mask to protect others in close proximity."

Dr. St. John has reiterated that the public must continue to practise good, basic hygiene at all times to avert contracting or spreading the illness.

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