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CARPHA urges precaution against influenza virus

Friday, February 23, 2018

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CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC) — The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is urging persons to practice good personal hygiene in order to reduce the risk of transmission of influenza and other respiratory viruses.

“Influenza (flu), a contagious respiratory illness which affects thousands of people in the Caribbean each year. Typically, the Flu season in the Region occurs between September to March when there is usually an increase in the number of persons coming down with the flu in the northern hemisphere,” a CARPHA statement noted Thursday.

In St Lucia, the Ministry of Health says an usually high number of persons iare being affected at this time of the year, as a result, the Ministry has bolstered its surveillance to ensure that a deadly influenza outbreak in the United States does not spread here.

According to the unit, Acting National Epidemiologist, Doctor Gemma Cherry, has reassured St Lucians that the country is not experiencing the same strain of influenza.

“In our case it is not the same- we are not having such an active or such a severe flu season at present. Like I said, before lots of persons would have flu or influenza, but you expect lots of persons to have mild influenza cases so at present we're not having lots of hospitalisation as a result of persons developing complications as a result of the flu virus,” Cherry explained.

Flu is characterized by a sudden onset of high fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise (feeling unwell), sore throat and runny nose. Most people recover from symptoms within a week without requiring medical attention but influenza can cause severe illness or death in people at high risk.

CARPHA's Executive Director, Dr C James Hospedales, says the primary form of influenza transmission is through interpersonal contact.

He added that large social events like carnival, festivals and concerts can create serious public health challenges because persons are often in crowds, sharing personal space and common areas.

Given elevated flu activity in the United States, combined with the high travel season to the Caribbean, it is important that people take the necessary steps now, to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu.

CARPHA urges persons to take proactive measures to reduce the risk of transmission of influenza and other respiratory viruses. Good hygiene measures that persons can take include, covering your mouth with a tissue or handkerchief, or using your elbow, when sneezing or coughing.

Other measures identified, include safely disposing of used tissues, washing hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds after coughing and sneezing and before and after meal preparation, eating and using the toilets. Alternatively, you may use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.

“Avoiding contact with others by staying home if you are sick, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly,” are also listed.

However the regional health body said vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent the disease, with safe and effective vaccines have been available and used for over 60 years.




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