p>GREAT BAY (DCOMM):— Influenza, better known as the flu, is a highly contagious viral infection. Unlike the common cold, influenza can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which often require hospitalization.
The flu is dangerous for elderly people (65-years and over), pregnant women, and very young children (aged six months and over) as well as for people with underlying medical conditions (severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity, diabetics). The aforementioned can be considered the high-risk groups and it is highly recommended that these persons get their flu shot (vaccine) in consultation with their physician.
The Surveillance Prevention and Disease Control of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) advises member states of the World Health Organization change on the Global Epidemiological Surveillance for Influenza and Influenza-like illnesses.
As of January 2018 collection of case data for Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) will be replaced by collection of data on Influenza-like Illness (ILI). Collection of surveillance data for Severe Acute Respiratory infections (SARI) continues. This change is important as the use of the common case definitions globally will allow local Health Ministries to interpret their data once collected in an international context.
The Collective Prevention Service (CPS), a department within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), is urging those who fall within the high-risk group to get their flu shot (vaccine).
The aforementioned persons should visit their family physician to get the flu vaccine. Vaccination offers effective protection against influenza. These persons are also reminded to adhere to proper handwashing and cough etiquettes. Vaccines need to be given each year as flu viruses are always changing.
There are three different types of influenza viruses that infect humans: influenza A, B and C. Only influenza A and B cause major outbreaks and severe disease, and these are included in seasonal influenza vaccines. Influenza spreads from person to person through the air by coughing or sneezing, or by direct contact with the virus on hard surfaces or people’s hands.
The flu usually differs from a cold as symptoms develop suddenly, and can lead to complications such as chest infections and pneumonia – particularly among the elderly and young children.
Flu symptoms tend to develop abruptly one to three days after infection, and can include: tiredness, high fever, chills, headache, coughing, sneezing, runny noses, poor appetite, and muscle aches.
Most people who get the flu will suffer from mild illness and will recover in less than two weeks. However, some people can develop longer-term health problems, including pneumonia, bronchitis, chest and sinus infections, heart, blood system or liver complications, which can lead to hospitalization and even death.