Health Minister encourages dialogue on diseases, viruses

RENWARD WELLS, Minister of Health

Minister of Health Renward Wells urged health care professionals to “talk” to others about influenza, as the season is quickly approaching.

“COVID-19 is with us and unfortunately that does not mean that all other illnesses and viruses have ceased,” Wells said during the Ministry of Health’s press update Monday (September 14) afternoon.

“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.

“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,” Wells noted.

The flu vaccine is safe and effective and this is supported by years of research, he added.

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 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.

“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. There is currently no vaccine for COVID- 19, however, the flu vaccine can provide protection for us from the current circulating strain(s),” said the minister.

“Healthcare workers are encouraged to talk to others 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–three million deaths every year,” he informed.

Wells noted 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.

“Older persons should also get the pneumococcal vaccine to prevent pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia or meningitis. Getting immunized protects you, your family and the community. Immunizations save lives.

“We know that adjusting to life with COVID-19, and health matters in general, puts a toll on us all, including our healthcare workers,” said the health minister. 

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