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COVID-19 Update 🦠


The Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs has noted an increase in the number of persons presenting with flu-like illnesses during the last 2 months. The increase is observed both in visits to the emergency departments and Wellness Centers. This is particularly the case for children less than 5 years of age.

On a global level, in January, 2024, the WHO Director-General indicated that in December, 2023 there was a 42 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and a 62 percent increase in ICU admissions compared to the previous month.

Nationally, in addition to COVID-19, the Epidemiology Unit at the Ministry of Health has recorded an increase in confirmed cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Influenza, for the period October 08 to December, 2023. Similar trends were detected globally mainly in parts of Europe, Central Asia and North America due to changes in the temperate Northern hemisphere.

On January 17, 2024 the Ministry of Health received laboratory results from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) confirming the presence of Omicron variant HV.1 in samples submitted by the national reference Ezra Long Laboratory.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that HV.1 has become the most dominant variant in the United States, with symptoms closely resembling a cold or the flu. These symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and congestion.

Despite the fact that HV.1 seems to be highly transmissible, experts agree that the new subvariant is not known to cause severe disease. This is the likely cause for the increased respiratory illness noted in country.

The public is encouraged to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses by the following measures:

• maintain proper hand hygiene with regular hand washing

• cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing

• wash hands thoroughly after coughing or sneezing

• wear a face mask where possible in crowded places and when presenting flu like symptoms

• avoid sharing cups and utensils

• avoid close contact with others who are sick

• clean surfaces and objects using household detergent

• refrain from sending sick children to school or daycare centers until they are resolved

• If symptomatic, avoid contact with people at higher risk of severe illness such as infants, older people and those who are immunocompromised

• educational institutions, work places, business places, and healthcare facilities are advised to strengthen sanitary protocols to reduce transmission

• consult a healthcare professional if flu like symptoms linger or worsen

The Ministry of Health reminds the general public that we are presently in the flu season which runs from October to March and as such, would like to encourage the use of the flu vaccine which is available free of charge at the various wellness centers.

The COVID-19 Janssen vaccine is also available and can be taken as a booster especially for persons with risk factors or chronic illness. COVID-19 testing is also available free of charge at the Wellness Centers.

The Ministry of Health alerts the general public to take the necessary measures to reduce the impact of respiratory illness at this time.

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