The Ministry of Health & Wellness has alerted the public to the triple public health threat facing the island – COVID-19, dengue and the flu.
“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,” Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of health and wellness, said as he addressed the ministry’s weekly virtual press conference 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 more than 9,094 positives and 207 deaths recorded up to Saturday (October 31).
There were 8,927 positives and 202 deaths at the time he spoke.
On dengue, he said the current assessed risk is low but with the indices reflecting the need to step carefully to avoid an outbreak.
On the flu, Tufton said: “It is now more important than ever to be vaccinated against the flu”.
“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,” he added.
It is especially important for high risk or otherwise vulnerable groups to become vaccinated. They 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)
- institutionalised persons
- the elderly (adults 65 years and older) and those with chronic illness
“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,” Tufton said.
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. This is while also sustaining dengue prevention efforts including tightly covering our water drums; and searching drums and other mosquito breeding sites (including dish drainers) once per week for wigglers.