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Flu still plagues island

Saturday August 08, 2015 Written by Published in Health

People are most contagious at the earliest stages of sickness, which could explain the rapid spread of viral infections on Rarotonga, says chief medical officer Dr Bernard Fouke.


With this in mind, the Ministry of Health are hoping that more people will take the time to isolate themselves and rest now that the celebrations are over.

In a letter to CI News, Fouke says the combination of too many people living in close proximity when they may already be infected but don’t yet feel symptoms, and the mixing of so many different populations during the Te Maeva Nui celebrations, is likely to be behind the surge.

“This type of event is inevitable, especially in winter, when communities who are normally remote from each other suddenly mix closely.”

As expected, and as seen previously with Constitution Day celebrations, Fouke says this effect is increased by the sudden increased population density on Rarotonga, the stress of travel, the cold weather, and the stress of the Te Maeva Nui performance schedule.

“We urge everyone to continue practicing good preventive health measures by isolating yourself when acutely ill, staying well hydrated and rested, and treating fever with Paracetamol or Ibuprofen.”

Fouke says if people feel they are getting worse or not improving as fast as they should, they should seek medical care without delay.

Influenza or ‘flu’ is a viral infection that mainly affects the nose, throat and the lungs.

Symptoms include the abrupt onset of fever plus either a cough or sore throat and can also lead to additional symptoms such as headache, tiredness, runny or stuffy nose, chills, diarrhoea and vomiting, aching muscles and joints.

Influenza is worse than an ordinary cold, as a cold is often limited to a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and throat irritation.

Influenza is infectious and can spread rapidly from person to person through respiratory droplets from the cough and sneezes of people who are sick.

When a case of influenza is severe, pneumonia, respiratory failure, and even death are possible.

Early treatment is especially important for the elderly, the very young, people with certain chronic health conditions, and pregnant women.

Someone who is ill with influenza should keep warm, rest and drink lots of hot drinks and fluids to prevent dehydration.

Paracetamol can be given to reduce the fever, headache, muscle and joint pains.

The key message from the Ministry of Health is for people to practice every day infection prevention actions such as hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette, staying home if ill, cleaning surfaces and monitoring their own health.

“Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub, cover your nose and mouth with tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough in your elbow or shirt sleeve, clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu and limit contact with others as possible as this reduces the chance of spreading the infection to them,” MoH says.

Fouke says the good news is very few people have become seriously ill, indicating that the preventive care being practiced by individuals is successful.  

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