While he insisted that there is no need to panic following two confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza (swine flu), Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands yesterday urged Bahamians to take the matter seriously and get vaccinated immediately.
“I think what needs to happen is people ought to take the threat of influenza seriously,” Sands told The Nassau Guardian.
“…There has been a loose association between the term H1N1 and swine flu and that is international.
“The truth of the matter is all influenza strains have the potential of being serious, lethal or deadly.
“And, so, once we recognize that flu is not just a minor issue, that it can be fatal, then Bahamians need to separate themselves from what has become convenient conventional thinking [such as] internet-based users [who say] vaccinations are dangerous and vaccinations cause you to lose hair on your head and so on and so forth and recognize that this thing can kill you and the only treatment we have or the only approach that we have that can reduce the threat of this dangerous ailment is vaccination.
“And vaccination only confers about a 40 to 60 percent reduction in risk at best but it’s all we got.
“So, when you are talking about an issue that can kill young people, healthy people, strong people, pregnant women, it’s a serious serious problem.”
Sands revealed last week that one person has died from swine flu and another has been confirmed to have the virus.
He noted that while these are two laboratory confirmed cases, this does not mean that those are the only cases of H1N1.
The reported number of flu cases ranges from 200 to 650 annually.
According to the Department of Public Health, there were 403 clinical cases of influenza in 2017 and four confirmed cases.
This was the least number of confirmed cases of influenza since 2013.
There were 641 clinical cases and 10 confirmed cases of influenza in 2013; 467 clinical cases and 16 confirmed cases in 2014; 204 clinical cases and 9 confirmed cases in 2015; and 238 clinical cases and 28 confirmed cases in 2016.
According to the statistics, the number of vaccines given decreased drastically from 2013 to 2016.
In 2013, 19,201 influenza vaccines were given, compared to 16,500 in 2014; 17,978, in 2015; and 8,862 in 2016.
There are no numbers provided for vaccines given last year.
Asked yesterday whether there should be cause for concern given the recent confirmed cases, Sands said, “I don’t think that people should panic, but they should not allow themselves to be hoodwinked by misinformation.
“…This is not an issue with influenza [because] influenza is an annual threat anywhere from October to May.
“So the message we are trying to get people to know is, take this thing seriously, go get vaccinated.
“You don’t need to worry about whether it’s going to harm you.
“Will it hurt? It might hurt a bit, but what you are doing is the best that you can do to protect yourself, your children, your family from what could be a deadly or catastrophic problem.”
Sands noted that Bahamians can go to any public clinic to get the free vaccine.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications