Flu activity level still high in United States and Caribbean

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We are presently approaching the end of the flu season which extends from October through to April. However, flu activity in the United States and the Caribbean region remains high.

Seasonal Influenza is an acute viral infection that spreads easily from person to person and seasonal epidemics usually occur at this time. Influenza A sub-type (H3N2); Influenza A subtype (H1N1); and Influenza B viruses are still circulating. Influenza A (H1N1) virus has been associated with severe diseases and complications in neighbouring Caribbean territories. Since the start of the year we have received laboratory confirmation for approximately three (3) cases of Influenza A (H1N1).

Seasonal flu can cause mild to severe illness and, at times, can lead to death. Flu symptoms include: fever; chills; sore throat; runny/stuffy nose; cough; body aches; headache; malaise; and fatigue. Most persons recover from symptoms within one week. However, persons with other underlying medical conditions can develop complications including: ear/sinus infections and bacterial pneumonia or severe lung infection.

Any one (even healthy people) can get/contract the flu and serious flu-related problems can happen at any age. However, some persons have an increased risk of developing serious flu related complications if they get sick. This high-risk group includes: (1) persons 65 years and older; (2) children younger than 5 years; (3) pregnant women; (4) individuals who are immuno- compromised with chronic medical conditions like diabetes and HIV; and (5) frontline health workers. Persons experiencing symptoms of the flu should seek health care, particularly those persons in this high-risk group.

The first and most important step in preventing seasonal flu is to get the flu vaccine each year. The Influenza vaccine is available at all health centers in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. It was first introduced in 2018 to the following four (4) adult groups: (1) older adults 65 years and over; (2) adults with chronic illnesses like diabetes and asthma; (3) pregnant women; and (4) healthcare workers.

There are other measures/actions that can be taken to prevent the flu. These include:

1. Avoid close contact with persons who are ill;
2. Persons who are ill should stay at home (sick leave);
3. Ill persons should cover nose and mouth with tissue or sleeve when coughing and
4. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose with dirty hands;
5. Wash hands often to protect you from germs like the flu virus;
6. Practice good health habits – exercise, eating healthy and drinking plenty of water;
Let us take all necessary precautions to prevent seasonal influenza flu.
Office of the Chief Medical Officer April 3, 2019

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