A Double Health Announcement: A Dengue Fever Update, and a Flu Alert

Minister of Health Christopher Tufton is waging a battle on two fronts at the moment. Today he informed Parliament about the near-outbreak of influenza (something not to be joked with, by the way) and the latest situation on dengue fever. Please take precautions, and if you do have the flu – don’t spread it around. Stay home, if you possibly can! And I would strongly advise getting vaccinated, especially if you are over 60 years old.

Please read more below…

Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton (Photo: JIS)

Jamaica on Flu Alert

Kingston, Jamaica. 12 February 2019. Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has put the island on alert for influenza (the “flu”), noting a significant increase in the number of cases of fever and respiratory or flu-like illnesses.

Flu is an acute viral infection that spreads easily from person to person, mainly by coughing, sneezing and through close contact. The viruses circulate worldwide and can affect anybody in any age group with symptoms varying by age and include fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose.

“Mr Speaker, we wish to advise this honourable house and the members of the public that the flu is to be taken seriously, as it can lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and cause diarrhoea and seizures in children. The flu can also worsen chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease,” Minister Tufton told Parliament in a statement on the subject on Tuesday afternoon (Feb 12, 2019).

Persons at highest risk of dangerous complications from the flu are infants and young children, adults 60 years and older, pregnant women, and persons with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems.

“Mr Speaker, in preparation for this flu season, a total of 21,900 doses of Influenza vaccine were purchased by the Ministry of Health through the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) Revolving Fund for Vaccines and distributed to parish health departments in late October 2018. Vaccination of target groups commenced in November 2018,” the minister noted.

The vaccine is offered free of cost in the public health system to the following high-priority groups:

  • Healthcare workers;
  • Children and the elderly with chronic illnesses;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Individuals who are institutionalised or in state care; and
  • Non-health frontline workers.

Private health care providers are encouraged to procure the influenza vaccine through private distributors in order to provide for the general population.

By activating the protocols for an alert status for Fever and Respiratory (Influenza-like) Illness, the Ministry of Health will immediately:

  • enhance its public education campaign to reinforce good hand hygiene and emphasize respiratory etiquette;
  • activate enhanced infection control programme in hospitals and health facilities for preventing, controlling and investigating communicable diseases;
  • increase stocks of medication in hospitals and health facilities to respond to an increase in the number of persons hospitalised;
  • continue and expand the extended opening hours at health centres to provide access to at-risk populations to include the elderly and children under 5 years; and
  • continue implementation of overcrowding management plans for major hospitals.

Mr Speaker, the implications of this increase in the number of cases of the flu will mean that members of the public will experience longer waiting times at public health facilities. We crave their indulgence, as we seek to ensure that all those who visit our facilities receive care,” Tufton said.

“At the same time, we strongly encourage members of the public to practice good hygiene, including washing hands with soap and water; and covering the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing,” he added.



Mr Speaker, I wish to update this Honourable House and the people of Jamaica on the current position of the dengue outbreak. As of February 8, the Ministry of Health has classified 1,166 suspected, presumed, or confirmed dengue cases with dates of onset in 2019. 2018, we had 1,023 suspected and confirmed cases. The weekly number of cases appears to be plateauing, while we need to wait for another two to three weeks to be sure this is an encouraging sign.

The largest number of suspected/presumed/confirmed dengue cases for 2019 to date was notified from St. Catherine with 313, followed by Kingston and St. Andrew with 177; St. Ann 121; St. Mary 75; St. Thomas 6; St. James 54 and Clarendon 49.

Mr Speaker, as of February 8, 2019, there have been six confirmed deaths, five from Kingston & St. Andrew and one from Portland. These confirmed deaths have been children under the age of 14 years old.


Mr Speaker, the most effective way to contain this outbreak is through community engagement and I have had the opportunity over the last month to visit all 14 parishes to review the work being done.

I am pleased to report that the enhanced vector control programme was continued and approximately 1,000 vector workers were engaged for a period of 3 months. Fogging and larvicidal activities were increased across the island and all high-risk areas; areas with a cluster of cases and key institutions (including schools) were targeted.

Mr Speaker, I can report that during the month of January, the following vector control activities were carried out:

  • 1,222 visits in communities for house-to-house inspection (with repeat visits done); this represents an approximate 69% increase over the previous 5 months;
  • 390 Fogging Sessions completed with 1,260 areas fogged;
  • 242,924 Containers Inspected and 31,688 Containers treated;
  • 320 Key Premises Inspected (Tyre Shops, Garages and Dump Sites)
  • 1,226 Key Institutions Inspected (Schools, Hospitals, Infirmaries, Lock-ups)
  • 724 Key Areas Inspected (high-risk communities, markets, urban centres, ports of entry)

Mr Speaker, a part of our community engagement has been the involvement of members of this Honourable House and the 13 municipal corporations, of which Cabinet has approved $55.7 Million to Members of Parliament and $100 Million to the corporations to undertake vector control activities.

To date Mr Speaker a total of over $600 Million has been allocated to the Dengue Outbreak response.


Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Health has partnered with several agencies and entities in its response to the dengue outbreak including:

  • The National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), which has been given a list of critical communities from which bulky waste was to be removed.
  • The National Works Agency (NWA). Drains susceptible to the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito were targeted for cleaning.
  • USAID continued to support the Ministry during the outbreak through the ZAP programme. One Hundred and Fifty-Eight (158) ZAP workers were re-engaged in January to assist the Ministry and have carried out activities in 94 communities.
  • The Jamaica Red Cross, which has mobilized its volunteers across the island with some 2,000 volunteers, to be mobilized to distribute educational fliers in several communities.

Mr Speaker, we have also had tremendous support from the CHASE Fund, Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), UNICEF, PAHO and Food for the Poor.

Of note, I wish to mention members of the private sector that have also provided support in responding to the dengue outbreak. I must make mention of our telecommunications service providers that helped enhance our public education campaign by reaching over 1.3 million persons with dengue prevention and protection messages.


Mr Speaker work continues in clinical management with the sustained sensitisation of all private and public doctors. Parish Medical officers of health were re-sensitized on response and enhanced surveillance, the integrated management strategy to include enhanced vector control activities, and clinical management.

A series of training Workshops for Clinicians across the four health regions were held and electronic copies of current clinical guidelines on dengue prevention and control were disseminated.

Additionally, Mr Speaker, copies of Dengue Protocols were sent to all hospitals and the medical and nursing associations.

Our Extended opening hours programme continues to facilitate increased access by patients needing medical care at selected health centres.

Mr Speaker, in relation to the availability of medication, through the Ministry of Health’s Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), the stock levels of certain drugs continues to be monitored including Paracetamol tablets, Paracetamol Syrup, Oral Rehydration Products and Intravenous fluids.

Mr Speaker, again, I wish to reassure the public that the team at the Ministry of Health is doing all it can to ensure the best possible health outcomes for those currently affected by dengue and to prevent the spread of the virus to other members of the population.

For the month of February, working with our regional and international collaborators, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and PAHO/WHO, we will sustain our response efforts from ramped up vector control management, public education and clinical management.

We urge Jamaicans search for and destroy mosquito breeding sites around their homes; visit their doctors if they experience symptoms and follow the prescribed course of treatment.

Thank You

Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, MP Minister of Health




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