Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 14, 2023 [Ministry of Health] – Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, issues an update and guidance on respiratory Illness Activity in the Federation.
Official Statement on Respiratory Illness Activity in St. Kitts & Nevis
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in its latest epidemiological report issued on January 8, 2024, confirmed that countries in the northern hemisphere are experiencing epidemic levels of acute respiratory disease associated with the circulation of three viruses namely: SARS CoV-2 or COVID-19 virus, influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This PAHO report further stated that in the Caribbean subregion, SARS CoV-2 activity has remained at low levels for the last four weeks. However, influenza activity and RSV activity are fluctuating at moderate levels for this same period.
In St. Kitts & Nevis, the Ministry of Health (MOH) continues to maintain its robust respiratory surveillance activities to monitor and detect any increase in respiratory infections. The emergency room physicians on both islands are currently evaluating and investigating all patients who present with fever and respiratory symptoms including headache, coughing, sore throat, loss of sense of taste or smell, shortness of breath, joint pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
SARS Co-V-2 is now endemic and as a society we are learning to live with this type of respiratory tract illness. In December 2023, no laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported. Between January 1 to 12, 2024, the MOH has reported only seven (7) laboratory confirmed cases of SARS CoV-2 or COVID-19, one of which was imported whereby the patient was airlifted shortly after hospitalization. The steady increase in respiratory illness activity is a common annual trend which the MOH is continuously monitoring. This trend is fueled by the flu season, the high influx of travelers and the mass gatherings during the Christmas season and carnival celebrations. Respiratory illness activity usually peaks between January and March of each year.
We must exercise vigilance at this time and adhere to the measures proven to prevent respiratory tract illness. We can mitigate the impact and spread of viral respiratory illnesses by following the recommendations listed below including:
- Get an updated or seasonal flu or influenza vaccine shot. The Ministry of Health is recommending that health care workers, older adults, pregnant women and patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes and asthma, get an updated influenza vaccine at the soonest possible time. Influenza vaccines are administered at all health centers in the Federation.
- Practice good hand hygiene. Wash hands thoroughly after exposure to high-touch surfaces
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Get prompt medical attention if you develop flu symptoms.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing.
- Stay at home from school, work, church, funerals and any function or gathering when you are sick and experiencing respiratory symptoms.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us do our part to reduce the respiratory illness activity in the Federation. Let us contain the spread of viral respiratory infections including SARS CoV-2, influenza and RSV by following these recommendations. Let us take action to maintain the health and wellness of our people during 2024. Happy New Year!
Office of the Chief Medical Officer
Saturday January 13, 2024