GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – It’s that time of the year when influenza, better known as the flu, becomes more prevalent, and the Collective Prevention Service (CPS) a department within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), is advising persons with underlying conditions – at risk – to consult with their physician about getting their annual flu shot (vaccine).
Influenza 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, and more so for persons with underlying conditions.
The flu poses a risk and can be especially dangerous for certain groups such as the elderly (65-years and over), pregnant women, and very young children (aged six months and over), Health Care Workers, as well as for people with underlying medical conditions known as immunocompromised (such as severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity, and diabetics).
The vaccination offers effective protection against influenza. Immunity from vaccination wanes over time so annual vaccination is recommended to protect against influenza. Persons are also reminded to adhere to proper handwashing, cough and sneeze etiquettes. Vaccines need to be given each year as flu viruses are always changing.
Influenza spreads from an infected person to others through the air by droplets (secretion) as a result of coughing and/or sneezing, or by direct contact with the virus on hard surfaces or people’s hands that have the viruses on them then touching the mouth, nose or eyes.
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 hospitalisation and even death.
As the island is also coping with COVID-19, it is important that vulnerable persons protect their health and that of their families by getting the flu vaccine.
Considering that COVID-19 carries the same general symptoms as the flu, it makes it difficult to differentiate from the annual seasonal Influenza (flu).
CPS request all persons who usually take their annual flu vaccine to call their physician and discuss their flu shot to ensure protection against the flu (influenza).
Apart from vaccination and antiviral treatment, public health management includes personal protective measures like: Regular hand washing with proper drying of the hands; Good respiratory hygiene – covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, using tissues and disposing of them correctly; Early self-isolation of those feeling unwell, feverish and having other symptoms of influenza; Avoiding close contact with sick people; Avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth.