The Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, JP, MP has issued a call to all residents to help contain the risks of influenza in the upcoming season by getting a flu shot and taking other preventive measures.
After receiving her annual flu shot at Hamilton Health Centre today Minister Wilson encouraged everyone to take advantage of the available influenza vaccination.
Minister Wilson said, "For many people, the influenza vaccine can completely prevent influenza. For the rest of the population, it reduces the severity of this infectious disease and the risk of ending up in hospital."
Minister Wilson added, "As you know, the famously popular "Flu Express" is back this year, with the first one held this week. The next is on Wednesday 13th November at Penno's Wharf, to be followed by the final one on Saturday 16th November at the Hamilton Health Centre. But if you cannot make these venues, you can visit your own doctor for your flu shot or go to the Hamilton Health Centre.
"To date, in 2019, people admitted to hospital with severe respiratory illness have been as young as babies, and up to 97 years. The average age has been 48 years, and the most common diagnosis has been influenza.
"There is no better way to safeguard yourself and your family from influenza than vaccination. A healthy diet, exercise, covering your coughs and sneezes, and washing your hands using soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizers can all help as well. But their effectiveness against flu infection is not as good without vaccination. Your best bet is to do them all.
"In the same way we prepare and protect our homes ahead of a storm, we need to prepare for the flu season and protect our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. Even when the vaccine does not prevent influenza completely, people who are vaccinated get less sick, have fewer complications and are less likely to die.
"This week the United States had its first two paediatric deaths due to influenza. It is most dangerous to the very young, seniors, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses, and those who are taking immunosuppressant medications. Each year young, healthy people die due to influenza too.
"Bermuda has had its own casualties in years past, and we have already had our first confirmed flu cases for this year. The common strains of influenza detected in Bermuda have been the virulent H1N1 and H3N2 strains – both of which are protected from by the vaccine
"Bermuda's high incidences of diabetes, asthma and heart disease also make influenza more dangerous. When patients with cardiovascular disease get influenza, they are significantly more likely to have a heart attack the week after diagnosis. Asthma and diabetes patients are three times more likely to die of influenza complications than other patients.
"Even if you do not get influenza yourself, it is highly likely you have a loved one who is at risk. Babies under six months can't be vaccinated against influenza – and so they are particularly vulnerable. Vaccination can prevent you from carrying the disease even if you don't get sick and would otherwise unknowingly give it to others.
"Last year our own hospital's ICU was so full due to people seriously sick with flu and on ventilators, they had to warn the public. Not only was this dangerous for the individuals who were critically ill, but it put the whole community at risk. Our healthcare service was in danger of not being able to take any more critically ill or injured patients. Even if you didn't have the flu, but had a bike accident or a stroke – your life could have been at risk because of the high number of people very sick with flu taking up beds due to an otherwise preventable disease."
Minister Wilson noted, "This year, the flu season is predicted to be worse than last year - worse even than 2017. Millions of people around the world have flu vaccinations every year and so the risks are extremely well documented and researched. So are the risks of not getting vaccinated. Guess which one puts you and your family at far, far greater risk of death and disability? Not getting vaccinated leads to hundreds of thousands more deaths and complications every year. In the end, it is up to you. But your choice could have serious implications to you, your family and the community. So read the proven evidence. And make sure you choose wisely.
“This is also an opportunity to remind the public of the ongoing investigation of mumps cases occurring in the Bermuda community. There are 2 confirmed and 2 suspect cases under investigation by the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the Ministry of Health. In 2017 and 2018 there were no cases of Mumps and ordinarily, since 2009 no more than 1 – 2 cases were reported annually.
“Mumps is a vaccine-preventable, contagious disease that can be easily spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes or talks. Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, followed by swelling of salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides. Most people with mumps recover fully, however, mumps can cause complications, especially in adults.
“To prevent spread to others, if you have symptoms of mumps, call your doctor or the emergency room before you go so that they can take precautions to prevent others from getting infected. Two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is the best way to prevent mumps. Check your vaccine record and visit your doctor or the Child Health Clinic, Victoria Street, Hamilton to update your vaccination status.
“We are lucky that in the 21st century we can take for granted advances in medicine that can prevent diseases that 100 years ago led to serious illness and even death. Today, we have these advances at our finger tips. Let us appreciate the access and take up the immunizations available to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”
Photo: Minister of Health is pictured receiving her flu shot administered by Community Health Nurse, Rache Hodsoll
The seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine is available to the public from the Department of Health, at a cost of $15.00 per shot (for both adults and children). Persons over the age of 65 years will receive the seasonal flu vaccine free-of-charge.