Triple public health threat: MoH says country facing COVID-19, dengue and flu at same time

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Triple public health threat: MoH says country facing COVID-19, dengue and flu at same time

Saturday, October 31, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Ministry of Health & Wellness says the country currently faces a triple public health threat, namely COVID-19, dengue and the flu, and urged people, particularly those from among vulnerable populations, to take the flu vaccine

“This triple threat is one that we must, first and foremost, be aware of and then make the necessary interventions to ensure the best public health outcomes for the people of Jamaica,” Minister of Health & Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said.

He was speaking at the ministry's weekly virtual press conference dubbed COVID Conversations on Thursday, October 29.

“The fact, ladies and gentlemen, is that if we are complacent, in addition to our COVID-19 cases, we could have more than 300 dengue cases and three to five dengue deaths each week — in addition to influenza-like illnesses,” he warned.

According to the minister, the island's COVID-19 realities are clear, with 8,927 positives and 2,020 deaths recorded up to the time of the press conference. On dengue, he said the current assessed risk is low but the indices reflecting the need to step carefully to avoid an outbreak.

“It is now more important than ever to be vaccinated against the flu,” Tufton said.

“Both the flu and COVID-19 are caused by viruses — the flu by influenza viruses and COVID-19 by the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). They also share some symptoms (fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, shortness of breath, etc.) and can cause mild to severe illness. There is, however, one significant difference: There is a vaccine that can protect you against the flu,” the minister added.

He said it is especially important for high-risk or otherwise vulnerable groups to become vaccinated. These groups include health care workers; pregnant women; children over six months with chronic illnesses; non-health frontline workers (police officers, army, correctional services, customs and immigration officers and our transport operators); people in institutionalised care; the elderly (adults 65 years and older) and those with chronic illnesses.

“It is important that members of these groups get vaccinated, not only because of their assessed risk level for flu, but also their vulnerability to COVID-19. As we understand it, it is possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Further, there is data that shows that people who are infected with both viruses at the same time can suffer more severe outcomes and not only in terms of severity of symptoms, but also the risk of hospitalisation and death,” he explained.

The minister further urged Jamaicans to stick to infection prevention and control measures, including wearing a mask, washing hands and keeping a physical distance of six feet from others. He added that the public must also sustain dengue prevent efforts, including tightly covering water drums, and searching drums and other mosquito breeding sites (including dish drainers) once per week for wigglers.

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