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Influenza, the most under-estimated disease

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  • Influenza, the most under-estimated disease


    Influenza, the most under-estimated disease

    IT has been revealed influenza is one of the most under-estimated
    infectious diseases in Fiji, probably because as a sub-tropical country, our
    population is constantly exposed to the influenza or flu virus, says the Minister for Health, Dr Neil Sharma.

    He made these comments at the launch of the Influenza PCR laboratory and the opening of the National Influenza Surveillance workshop yesterday at the Mataika House in Tamavua yesterday.

    Dr Sharma says influenza infections occur in a seasonal pattern and that often leads to an extensive burden of diseases.

    ?It is the largest contributor to absence from work due to illness and ranks as one of the highest causes of mortality amongst the elderly and patients with cardiovascular events.

    He says we also tend to forget that influenza infection is very contagious and very lethal when it presents in epidemic and pandemic proportions, which is largely due to the antigenic variability of the virus enabling it to escape the body?s antibodies.

    ?There is now enough evidence to confirm that an influenza pandemic is a certainty, the only question that remains is when it is going to appen?? Dr Sharma said.

    He also highlighted that the emergence of pandemic diseases like HIV, Avian Influenza and more recently Dengue Fever in Pacific region compels Fiji to utilise appropriate technologies to provide adequate warning when these events do invade.

    ?Our country Fiji is located in such a vulnerable position as the centre of travel in the Pacific that any infectious disease that affects neighbouring Pacific Island Countries generally affects our own population soon after.?

    Hence, Dr Sharma says Fiji needs to be more vigilant and well-prepared for any potential threats to its population.

    He says the Ministry of Health is working with the World Health Organization to curb the outbreak of influenza in Fiji.

    ?The recent outbreak of Avian influenza A/H5N1 in Asia Pacific has re-emphasised the importance of an efficient influenza surveillance system, and the urgency to strengthen surveillance capacity for monitoring circulating influenza virus, responding efficiently to outbreaks, and detecting an influenza virus that may have pandemic potential,? Dr Sharma added.