Message from Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Hazel Laws on the Influenza (Flu) Season.

We are in the middle of the Influenza (flu) season which occurs anywhere from November of each year to March of the following year. Influenza (flu) is an acute and very contagious respiratory tract infection caused by influenza type A (H1N1 & H3N2) and type B viruses circulating in our Federation, in the region and all parts of the world. The influenza virus causes mild to very severe illness and, at times, can lead to death.

The flu usually comes on suddenly within one (1) to four (4) days after becoming infected. Persons who have the flu often experience some or all of the following symptoms:

• fever

• sore throat

• coughing

• stuffy or runny nose

• Muscle and joint pains (body aches)

• headache and sometimes dizziness

• chills • Loss of taste sensation and appetite

• malaise & fatigue

• sometimes diarrhoea and vomiting

Most persons recover from these flu symptoms within one (1) week. However, some persons are at high risk of progressing and developing complications of the flu like ear infection, sinus infection, lung infection or pneumonia, and even worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes, which can be fatal.

How can you prevent getting the flu? Here are seven (7) tips to help you prevent the flu:

1. Stay away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing – the virus is spread via the tiny droplets of respiratory secretions from infected persons who cough and sneeze;

2. Keep your hands away from your face and far away from your mouth and nose – you can get sick if you touch an infected surface and transfer the virus to your nose and mouth.

3. Clean and disinfect communal surfaces at least once per day – for example, clean door knobs in the home and work place (the virus can remain viable without a host for about 24 hours).

4. Wash your hands properly after touching any commonly touched surfaces – such as door handles, water coolers, communal keyboards/keypads and light switches.

5. If you are ill with the flu you should remain at home from school and work;

6. Keep well-hydrated and get enough sleep / rest for optimal functioning of your immune system.

7. Get the flu vaccine – persons ≥ 65 years, adults with chronic conditions like asthma, pregnant women and frontline health workers can get the flu vaccine at any health centre in St. Kitts & Nevis. The flu vaccine helps to prevent the serious complications of the flu and has been available in the Federation since the 2017-2018 flu season.

The flu can be dangerous in children under five (5) years, in persons over 65 years, pregnant women and in persons with chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes. I recommend that you visit your regular doctor or the district medical officer at the nearest health centre if you develop any symptoms of the flu. The flu virus can adversely affect older persons and can lead to life-threatening complications. Be proactive in strengthening your immune system and take preventive steps to avoid getting the flu.

I take this opportunity to wish everyone optimal health, happiness and success for 2020 and beyond.

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