The Ministry of Health has noted reports of an increase in influenza like illnesses circulating in the North American and Caribbean Regions in recent months, including Barbados.

The Ministry disclosed that respiratory samples collected from patients have been submitted to two government labs in Barbados that have the capacity to detect influenza and other respiratory viruses. Some samples have been sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency for testing, health officials stated.

Viral respiratory diseases are characterised by fever with one or more cold symptoms such as chills, headache, body ache, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Persons who are ill should limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Additionally, individuals with fever should avoid leaving their homes to go to work or to other public places until the fever has subsided.

Persons should stay at home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

Individuals who are pregnant or suffer with chronic conditions such as asthma and other lung conditions, heart disease, diabetes and impairment of the immune system, may be at greater risk of complications and should consult their health care provider for medical advice.

Persons who develop difficulty breathing, mental confusion or worsening symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Good personal hygiene is essential to prevent influenza viruses from spreading. Members of the public are advised to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them with disposable tissue, since this is the most effective way of reducing transmission. If soap and water are not available, persons are advised to use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Also, keep unwashed hands away from eyes, nose and mouth; and cover one???s nose and mouth with tissue when coughing and sneezing. This will block the spread of the virus from your mouth or nose.

In situations where tissue is not available persons are advised to cough into the inner side of the elbow as an emergency measure. Used tissues should be disposed of in a bin or placed in a tied plastic bag. Frequently touched surfaces and objects such as doorknobs, keyboards, and phones that may be contaminated should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

Ministry officials explained that a shipment of seasonal influenza vaccines should be available by September 30. These vaccines will be provided to frontline workers and persons most at risk for influenza. The officials added that the Ministry would continue its surveillance for influenza and keep the public updated on the situation.

Author: Ministry of Health/BGIS

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