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CPS Explains difference between Influenza and Cold Viruses. Calls on Community to Practice Prevention

The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department from the Sint Maarten Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, advises the Sint Maarten community to practice prevention measures listed below to prevent the common influenza ‘flu’/cold illness.

Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection.  Unlike the common cold, influenza can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which often require hospitalization.

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.  These two types of illness have similar symptoms and can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on the symptoms.  In general, flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more intense.

Colds are milder than the flu.  Colds generally do not result in serious health problems such as pneumonia and bacterial infections.

The flu poses a risk or can be especially dangerous for certain groups such as the elderly (65-years and over), pregnant women, and very young children (aged six months and over) as well as for people with underlying medical conditions known as immunocompromised (such as severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity, diabetics).

The aforementioned groups are considered high-risk groups and it is highly recommended that these persons get their flu shot (vaccine).

With respect to flu-prevention guidance, the vaccination offers effective protection against influenza.  Persons are also reminded to adhere to proper handwashing and cough etiquettes. Vaccines need to be given each year as flu viruses are always changing.

Influenza spreads from an infected person to others through the air by droplets (secretion) as a result of coughing and/or sneezing, or by direct contact with the virus on hard surfaces or people’s hands that have the viruses on them then touching the mouth, nose or eyes.

The flu usually differs from a cold as symptoms develop suddenly and can lead to complications such as chest infections and pneumonia – particularly among the elderly and young children.

Flu symptoms tend to develop abruptly one to three days after infection, and can include: tiredness, high fever, chills, headache, coughing, sneezing, runny noses, poor appetite, and muscle aches.

Most people who get the flu will suffer from mild illness and will recover in less than two weeks. However, some people can develop longer-term health problems, including pneumonia, bronchitis, chest and sinus infections, heart, blood system or liver complications, which can lead to hospitalisation and even death.

As adults consult your physician to assure the correct information as it relates to your vaccination and your health diagnosis, to obtain laboratory confirmation of the condition and acquire treatment for respective condition.

According to CPS, let us prevent the spread or increase of influenza cases by: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Patients who have cold-like symptoms should cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing (cough etiquette) and wash your hands frequently and correctly (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – hand hygiene).

Avoid sharing cups and eating utensils with others and refrain from kissing others and stay at home when you are sick.

Handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is an effective and affordable way to prevent infections and diseases.

It is very important to wash hands with soap before cooking or preparing food, before eating, and before feeding someone (including breastfeeding) or taking care of others ill or not.

Help children to stay healthy by teaching them about handwashing and show them how proper handwashing is done.

The CPS calls on residents to be vigilant and to implement handwashing with soap as one of the most important public health interventions as clean hands saves lives.

Many infections start when hands are contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and viruses. This can happen after using the toilet, changing a child’s diaper, coughing, sneezing, touching other people’s hands, and touching other contaminated surfaces.

Handwashing with soap works by removing bacteria and viruses from hands before they get a chance to cause infections or spread to other people.

For more information, you can call CPS 542-1322, 1122, 1222, 1570 or email surveillance@sintmaartengov.org