Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh claims that no citizen has died from influenza within the past two years.
“For the past two years, last flu season and this flu season, we have had in TT for the first time in over a decade, no one dying of influenza,” he said yesterday while addressing the launch of the North West Regional Health Authority’s (NWRHA) Care Fair at the San Juan Promenade, Croisee.
The event featured a range of services, including vision, dental and prostate screening, basic health management and HIV testing and counselling.
Deyalsingh revealed last year, the ministry gave out 75,000 doses of influenza shots to citizens, free of charge.
This year, he said, the ministry has already given out 40,000 doses.
The minister said it was important to make the distinction between the influenza virus and the common cold since people often confuse the two.
“One of the main reasons for this (care fair) is to immunize Trinidad and Tobago against the influenza virus.
“I want to tell people there is a huge difference between the common cold and the influenza virus.
Because people feel when we immunize you against the influenza virus you don’t get the common cold. It is two different things.”
Deyalsingh explained the difference.
“The common cold is when you get a little stuffy nose, a little headache and that passes within three to five days,” he said.
“You take some paracetamol, you drink some fluids, some orange juice and you are good to go. That won’t land you in hospital.
We are not vaccinating you against the common cold.
“But what we are vaccinating you against is the influenza virus which is a different virus from the common cold.
The influenza virus can hit a healthy person suddenly. You will get high fever. Your lungs become filled with fluid and you will end up in an emergency room at the hospital. You can die within 24 to 48 hours from the influenza. You may not die from the common cold.”
Deyalsingh said scores of people were dying from influenza in the United States, Canada and England.
“That same virus that hit Canada and the US is what starts to come down here (TT) with your friends and families and visitors from Christmas to Carnival.
“So, they bring that influenza with them to our shores and this is what we are immunizing against.”
NWRHA chairman Lisa Agard said the statistics on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in this country were quite frightening.
“In 2015, 65 per cent of all of the deaths in Trinidad and Tobago arose as result of various NCDs,” she said.
“This is a serious issue.
We have a crisis of unhealthy living in this country and it is our duty and responsibility to do something about it.”
NWRHA’s chief executive officer Wendy Ali, in her address, said prevention was always better than cure.
“Check yourself,” she declared.
“ We walk around thinking all is well and we don’t know. We wait until something is wrong and them we access our health services.
That is not what we are about today.”