Coronavirus, Influenza and Dengue Fever Updates for Jamaica

It seems that the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is by no means finished with us yet. Earlier today, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists at a press briefing (full audio here) that: 

“As of 6am Geneva time this morning, there are 24,363 confirmed 2019-nCoV cases in China, and 490 deaths. In the last 24 hours we had the most cases in a single day since the outbreak started.”

Dr. Tedros added: “Outside China there are 191 2019nCoV cases in 24 countries and one death, in the Philippines. Of those, 31 cases are in people with no travel history to China, but all are close contacts of a confirmed case or of someone from Wuhan…So far, 99% of the 2019nCoV are in China, and 80% of cases in China are from Hubei province. The relatively small number of cases outside China gives us a window of opportunity to prevent this outbreak from becoming a broader global crisis.” He again expressed concern that countries with “weaker health systems” have greater potential to spread the virus. (1)
An employee sprays disinfectant on a train as a precaution against a new coronavirus at Suseo Station in Seoul. The new coronavirus has spread through Asia and beyond. © AP

Meanwhile, Jamaica seems to be hanging in there. Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton gave another update to the press this morning. Please find his official statement below. Note also that dengue fever and influenza are still on the Ministry’s radar!

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, cruise ship companies are taking precautions, while several islands have imposed “travel bans”: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Haiti and Dominican Republic turned away a group of passengers. St. Lucia and Antigua refused to allow a cruise ship to dock because of suspected coronavirus cases on board; St. Maarten and Martinique reportedly allowed it to do so. Other Caribbean islands are engaged in a lot of screening of passengers and are mulling their options. How is all of this impacting the travel and tourism industries? Pretty badly, I would guess.


NOTE: The WHO website has a rather helpful “Myth Busters” page on specific topics. There are a lot of “theories” circulating on how to prevent infection. The above graphic is one example. Take a look here.


Statement of Minister of Health & Wellness Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, M.P.

Press Briefing: Coronavirus and Dengue Update

MOHW, RKA Building, 10-16 Grenada Way, Kingston

5 February, 2020


The Government of Jamaica remains vigilant in its efforts to protect the population from the Novel Coronavirus.

  • Cabinet has instructed that a National Coordinating Mechanism be established and the Ministry of Health and Wellness will be liaising with the various partners to see to its establishment.
  • The restrictions on travel from China remain in effect. This means that in addition to the usual port health and immigration rules and procedures for air and sea crafts, for travelers who have visited China in the last 14 days, the following apply:
  • Only Jamaican nationals, permanent residents and those with marriage exemption will be granted landing privileges;
  • All travelers will be subject to immediate quarantine and for a minimum of 14 days;
  • And travelers who show any symptom of the Novel Coronavirus will be put in immediate isolation.

Quarantine facilities are provided by the Government in some cases. Isolation facilities are operational at public hospitals.

  • There are currently 13 persons in quarantine and one in isolation.
  • Each traveler from China will be assessed to determine the type of quarantine to be applied. This assessment will be done using a special Risk Assessment tool. Those determined to be high risk will be quarantined in a Government facility. Those determined to be low risk will be quarantined at home. Those quarantined at home will be followed up daily by healthcare teams at the parish level.
  • Based on information currently available, this new Coronavirus behaves in the same way as other Coronaviruses, which means that the normal processing of goods coming into the country would have rendered them safe.
  • The World Health Organisation is currently reviewing measures to deal with the global demand for medical masks. Jamaica does not currently have a stock-out of such masks.
  • I hasten to add that wearing a medical mask is not recommended except for those persons who will be in close contact to symptomatic individuals. In fact, it may create a false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures, such as proper hand hygiene.
  • Given the risk, we are placing great emphasis on border protection and on the preparedness of frontline workers. To that end, we have:
  • Engaged 329 frontline employees at the Norman Manley International Airport and Sangster international Airport, including Immigration, Customs, Port Health, Airport Police, Jamaica Fire Brigade, Aviation Services, Various Airlines, and Management staff at Ports. The training sessions have focused on the new Coronavirus with respect to roles and responsibilities of the points of entries, as well as facilitation of prompt recognition of infectious or potentially infectious persons and implementation of appropriate interventions;
  • Sensitised some 50 senior nursing managers and 50 physicians from the public health system across the island;
  • Sensitised 50 clinicians from the private sector;
  • And sensitised representatives from the various professional health groups, including the Medical Association of Jamaica, the Association of Government Consultants and the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association together with the Professionals Supplementary to Medicine Group.
Dengue Fever Facts (Source: WHO)


It is imperative that Jamaicans not lose sight of the dengue threat.

  • Between January 1, 2018 and January 31 this year, there were 10,331 suspected, presumed or confirmed dengue cases. Of that number, there were 1,069 with date of onset in 2018, 9,159 in 2019 and 103 this year.
  • Also between January 1, 2018 and January 31 this year, there were 2,325 hospitalisations for suspected, presumed or confirmed dengue.
  • Over the period, there were 85 suspected, presumed or confirmed dengue-related deaths – 17 in 2018, 67 in 2019 and 1 this year.
  • Also over the period, 2,325 or 22.5% of the 10,331 cases were hospitalised for suspected or confirmed dengue. Of those hospitalised, 3.7% died while 96.3% were discharged.

Recently we added 60 new motor vehicles, valued at some 400 million Jamaican Dollars, to our fleet for the National Vector Control Programme – 37 of them equipped with mounted foggers. We have also had the National Dengue Cleanup and are pleased with the response from the various communities of actors – at home, at school and in work places. It is vital that we sustain the efforts to rid ourselves of mosquito breeding sites and in so doing, reduce our vulnerability to dengue.

Influenza (Flu) Viruses: There are two main types of influenza (flu) virus: Types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Finally, we want to remind the public that we are in the 2019-2020 flu season. The flu can affect anybody, in any age group. However, children, persons with chronic illness, pregnant women, and the elderly are at high risk for complications from the flu. These complications include pneumonia and blood infections.

We urge Jamaicans to get their flu vaccine while also practicing good hygiene, including washing hands with soap and water; and covering the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing.

Of note is that these good hygiene practices are also important for the prevention of the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.