September 16, 2020
Minister of Health the Hon. Renward Wells told the public that the timely receipt of COVID-19 test results greatly aid the staff of the Ministry of Health’s Surveillance Unit and volunteer contact tracers in carrying out their duties.
“As the Contact Tracing Strike force continues to effectively manage COVID-19 data, the public is encouraged to please give accurate details, especially telephone numbers and addresses, first to the doctor’s office or lab taking the sample and to the members of the contact tracing team,” Minister Wells said during a COVID-19 Update press conference at the Ministry of Health, Monday, September 14, 2020.
He stated that COVID-19 is here, but unfortunately that does not mean that all other illnesses and viruses have ceased. “In a few short weeks, it will be October, which marks the beginning of the influenza or ‘flu’ season.
“The flu season lasts until March. Last year in The Bahamas, our healthcare system treated thousands of people affected by the flu or complications from the flu.
Minister Wells explained that at this time, unlike COVID-19, there is a vaccine available to protect people from influenza. “It is important that we all get the flu vaccine, especially during this time of COVID-19.”
He said, “The flu vaccine is safe and effective and this is supported by years of research. Isolation of the first Influenza H1N1 strain in 1933 and the first Influenza B strain in 1940, led to the first bivalent flu vaccine in 1942.
“The flu vaccine has been around for 78 years. Currently, it is recommended that all persons older than six months should get the annual vaccine to prevent getting the flu, unless specifically instructed not to by a doctor.”
The Health Minister noted that the flu similar to COVID-19, is characterized by symptoms such as fever, cough, muscle aches, sore throat and runny nose and a general unwell feeling. Illness can be mild or severe.
He stated that while it is important to get the flu vaccine each year because of new strains of the virus which circulate annually, this year greater significance must be placed on availing oneself of the available flu vaccine.
Minister Wells said there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 however the flu vaccine can provide protection from the current circulating strain(s).
“Healthcare workers are encouraged to talk to their patients about the flu vaccine to educate them about the benefits. If you think you may have the flu, call your healthcare provider to get appropriate instructions on what you should do.
“Along the same path of vaccine preventable diseases, according to the World Health Organization, immunization prevents two to three million deaths every year.”
He stressed that immunizations are important public health tools for the very young to older persons.
“For example, younger children need their immunizations kept up to date to ensure that they are protected from preventable diseases such as mumps and measles. Parents have a great responsibility in this regard,” Minister Wells said.
Minister of Health the Hon. Renward Wells speaks at the COVID-19 Update press conference at the Ministry of Health, Monday, September 14, 2020. (BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs)
By Llonella Gilbert