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Ministry of Health advises citizens to safeguard themselves against the Influenza Virus

The Ministry of Health would like to advise that during this season persons who are at increased risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia from the influenza virus should visit their nearest health facility or doctor to receive the influenza vaccine.

Influenza viruses change over time, and each year the vaccine is updated to include the viruses that are most likely to circulate in the upcoming influenza season.  The best way to prevent contracting influenza is to get a yearly flu vaccine.

These high risk groups of persons include:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Children 6 months to 5 years of age;
  • Persons with respiratory complications like asthma and chronic  lung disease;
  • Persons with immuno-compromised conditions;
  • Persons with chronic non-communicable diseases including diabetes;
  • Persons 65 years and older;
  • Persons who live with or care for others who are high risk for developing serious complications from the infuenza virus.

Citizens are also reminded to practice good personal hygiene to protect themselves and others from acquiring the influenza (flu) virus.  Regular hand-washing is important for your OWN protection and that of others.

How is the Flu spread?
The main way influenza (flu) viruses are spread is through droplets released into the air from the coughs and sneezes of an infected person.  This can happen when droplets are inhaled directly by people nearby.  Some droplets containing the virus also fall on hard surfaces (like desks, tables, phones and door knobs).  People pick up the virus when they touch these surfaces and then touch their eyes, mouth or nose.

Another common method of infection is by shaking hands with someone who has not maintained proper respiratory and hand hygiene, and failing to wash your own hands before touching your face (especially your nose).

When can an infected person spread the flu virus to others?
Infected persons can spread the flu virus from 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 days after symptoms appear.  Children, especially younger children, can be contagious for much longer periods (10 – 14 days)

What should a person do if he gets the flu?
Practice good personal hygiene including:

  • Washing hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 70% alcohol, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Show children how to wash their hands properly and practice it with them.
  • Avoid close contact (hugging, shaking hands, etc) with persons who show symptoms of influenza.
  • Keeping hands away from the eyes, mouth and nose.  Germs can be spread or enter the body this way.
  • Persons should cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing – or cough into their sleeve or elbow if they don’t have a tissue handy – throw the tissue in a bin after use, and wash their hands with soap and water again
  • People with symptoms of flu-like illness should stay at home for 7 – 10 days or until at least 24 hours after ALL SYMPTOMS have ended, whichever is longer.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink clear fluids to keep hydrated.
  • Monitor symptoms: Check for emergency warning signs and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.

Symptoms of the influenza virus include:

  • Sudden high fever (over 38ºC or 100ºF)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue

Ministry of Health

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