Many Barbadians who thought they had the flu last month actually suffered from respiratory illnesses, according to the Ministry of Health.
In a statement released today through the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), the ministry said there was in increase in the number of cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – a virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract – in November 2016 compared to November last year. It provided no figures.
“For the subset of cases tested, the causative organism was not the flu virus but mostly respiratory syncytial virus,” the release said.
However, it cautioned residents to guard against the flu virus, saying the Pan American Health Organisation had advised of a rise in the incidence of seasonal flu in North America and “sporadic cases are also being seen in neighbouring islands”.
In this regard the ministry is reminding Barbadians to continue to practise good hygiene “as this is the most effective way of reducing the transmission of respiratory viruses”.
“These practices include washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them with disposable tissue. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is recommended,” the statement said.
“Health officials also advised persons to keep unwashed hands away from the eyes, nose and mouth; and to generally avoid touching these areas as germs can enter the body this way,” it added.
The statement also included a number of precautionary measures that residents should take to avoid contracting or spreading the flu, including covering their noses and mouths with tissue when coughing or sneezing, or coughing or sneezing into the inner sides of their elbows.
In addition, it advised people at risk for severe illnesses from the seasonal flu virus, including those with asthma, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, to discuss possible vaccination with their doctors.