Minister Wilson Provides Three Health Advisories

June 23, 2018 | 0 Comments

Minister of Health Kim Wilson provided three public health advisories in the House of Assembly on Friday [June 22], covering issues including travel, camps, and health screenings.

Minister Wilson said, “As Honourable members may or may not be aware, the World Health Organization [WHO] has received an increase in reported cases of the measles in Europe and the Americas.

“The outbreaks in Europe and the Americas have been attributed to persons being under-vaccinated or unvaccinated. Measles is a highly contagious virus that can spread from an infected person by coughing and sneezing. The droplets can last up to two hours in an airspace and up to 90% of people close to the person who are not immune will also become infected. This is why it is so important to be immunized – to protect ourselves and others.

“As the summer presents a time for travel and with persons going on holidays abroad or even attending the World Cup, we wish to remind and encourage the public to ensure their and their children’s vaccines are up-to-date.

“The summer months also present a time when children have a break from school and attend camps. I’m sure we can all remember these care-free days at summer camps swimming, doing arts and crafts, participating in sports, and enjoying time with friends. No one wants children to be able to do this more than the Ministry of Health.

“However, we also have to ensure camps are safe and appropriate for the children they serve. To that end, the Environmental Health Section of the Department of Health encourages a voluntary registration option for camps. In addition, Environmental Health will investigate any complaints received about any camp – registered or unregistered.

“Finally, our third advisory is a more buoyant note and is to announce a reminder of the return of the popular free health screening initiative – Taking it to the Streets.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr Speaker

I rise today to provide three public health advisories to the listening public.

As Honourable members may or may not be aware, the World Health Organization [WHO] has received an increase in reported cases of the measles in Europe and the Americas. In 2017, Europe had more than 22,000 reported cases and in the first two months of this year more than 11,000. The Americas has had more than 1,600 cases including the USA and Canada in the first few months of this year. This, Mr Speaker, is of great concern for us all – whether traveling or staying in Bermuda.

Disease like the measles know no boundaries and travel happily without passports. This means we all have a responsibility to keep our country and those countries we travel in, safe. If less than 95% of a community is vaccinated, then there is less protection against a disease and it is more likely to spread.

Mr. Speaker, the outbreaks in Europe and the Americas have been attributed to persons being under-vaccinated or unvaccinated. Measles is a highly contagious virus that can spread from an infected person by coughing and sneezing. The droplets can last up to two hours in an airspace and up to 90% of people close to the person who are not immune will also become infected. This is why it is so important to be immunized – to protect ourselves and others.

Mr Speaker, some sectors of the population may have become complacent about getting vaccinations as they have not encountered these diseases before. People may not be aware of or may forget the pain and suffering children and adults suffered before vaccines were developed. Measles is not a disease to be complacent about. It can cause pneumonia, blindness, inflammation of the brain and even death.

Mr Speaker, as the summer presents a time for travel and with persons going on holidays abroad or even attending the World Cup, we wish to remind and encourage the public to ensure their and their children’s vaccines are up-to-date.

The Adult Immunization and Travel Health Clinics in the Department of Health can help. Before attending the Clinics, you can complete a quick questionnaire about your travel which can be found on our website. For children’s immunization, be sure to discuss with their doctor.

Mr Speaker, the summer months also present a time when children have a break from school and attend camps. I’m sure we can all remember these care-free days at summer camps swimming, doing arts and crafts, participating in sports, and enjoying time with friends. No one wants children to be able to do this more than the Ministry of Health.

However, Mr Speaker, we also have to ensure camps are safe and appropriate for the children they serve. To that end, the Environmental Health Section of the Department of Health encourages a voluntary registration option for camps. In addition, Environmental Health will investigate any complaints received about any camp – registered or unregistered.

While camps for school-age children are unregulated at the moment, guidelines were created and are useful to ensure best practice. Of course I speak of summer camps as that is the time of year we are entering, but registration with Environmental Health and the guidelines apply to camps throughout the year.

Mr Speaker, our children spend a large part of their day in a camp setting. Environmental Health, therefore, is encouraging camps to register with them and for parents to be diligent when selecting a camp. Parents should ask if the camp is registered. A registered camp is more likely to be following the guidelines and therefore is more likely to be a safer space for children.

Some areas of concerns for camps are child to staff ratios, especially around water, the camp having a building, staff training [e.g. CPR/First Aid], policies on visitors and communicating concerns, and the programme focus of the camp. In addition, operators of a camp should be 21 or older and have at least two years’ experience of working with children. All of these guidelines can be found on our website at: www.gov.bm/child-care-information-parents

Mr Speaker, I encourage all parents to ask these questions of the camps and to insist the camps register with Environmental Health. Registration is a first step towards providing a safety net for our young citizens. We all want to do the best for our children, and we can do that with help from parents and camp operators.

Finally, Mr Speaker our third advisory is a more buoyant note and is to announce a reminder of the return of the popular free health screening initiative – Taking it to the Streets. This starts today, Friday 22nd June at Woody’s Drive Inn Two Bar and Restaurant on Boaz Island from 4 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. The Department of Health’s Community Nurses will be traveling to different sites on the Island until September providing free screenings.

The screenings will include:

  • Monitoring blood sugar
  • Assessing cardiac risk profile
  • Monitoring blood pressure
  • Monitoring weight
  • Other health education

Mr Speaker, these screenings last year were attended by more than 350 people of which 126 were referred for additional medical assessment. Screenings are important tools for testing and early detection of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. These diseases are called “silent killers” because many sufferers do not feel sick and do not have symptoms. The screenings can catch the conditions before they develop into debilitating diseases.

Our community health nurses are “taking it to the streets” to make it easier for the public to attend. There can be no excuses for persons wishing to start taking care of their bodies. Bermuda is currently in an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, but with our frontline team reaching-out to the community we are being proactive rather than reactive.

Additional screenings will be held from 4 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. on:

  • 20 July 2018 – Heron Bay Market Place, Southampton
  • 24 August 2018 – E.F. Gordon Square, Dundonald Street, Hamilton
  • 28 September 2018 – King’s Square, St. Georges

The Ministry of Health does not wish to rain on anyone’s parade. We all want to have fun and enjoy the summer with all that it has to offer. As public health professionals, however, we need to ensure that everyone can continue to have fun when the summer is over. That requires us to issue advisories, raise subjects that can make some persons uncomfortable and provide screenings to proactively help.

However, we hope this is an opportunity to raise awareness, encourage diligence for camps and motivate persons to attend the screenings for their health. For more information about any of the above advisories, you can find it on our website gov.bm/ministry/health.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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