The Ministry of Health has noted an increase in acute respiratory illness (ARI) circulating in Barbados.

Respiratory samples collected from patients and sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency for testing have been positive for the Influenza A virus.

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 prevent others from getting ill. Individuals with fever should avoid leaving their homes to go to work or to other public places until the fever has subsided.

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

The elderly, women who are pregnant and those with chronic conditions may be at greater risk of complications, and should consult their health care provider for medical advice and information on the Influenza vaccine.

Chronic conditions include asthma and other lung conditions, heart disease, diabetes and impairment of the immune system. Persons who develop difficulty breathing, mental confusion or worsening symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Good personal hygiene is essential to preventing influenza viruses from spreading. The public is advised to: wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them with disposable tissue since this is the most effective way of reducing transmission; if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub and keep unwashed hands away from eyes, nose and mouth.

Persons should also cover their nose and mouth with tissue when coughing and sneezing as this will block the spread of the virus from your mouth or nose; in situations where tissue is not available persons should cough into the inner side of the elbow as an emergency measure and throw used tissues in a bin or collect 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.??The Ministry of Health will continue its surveillance for influenza and will keep the public updated on the situation.

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