Flu season is here and while more people in Cayman may seem to be suffering, the number of cases is within the usual expected range.
Dr. Fiona Robertson, head of the Accident and Emergency Department at Cayman Islands Hospital, confirmed that the prevalence of flu is normal for this time of year.
‘We see an increase in flu every year at this time. We’ve certainly seen the usual seasonal rise for flu symptoms, but we haven’t seen an unusual jump in the numbers,’ she said.
Compared to 2004, however, the numbers may seem higher, she explained.
‘It may feel like a lot more this year, because last year we didn’t see the usual increase in incidence of flu for the season, probably because we had fewer visitors,’ Dr. Robertson said.
Tourists coming here from up north are one of the usual sources of flu, she added.
‘When it gets cold up north, people tend to retreat indoors to socialise. They spend more of their time inside which makes it easier to contract viruses due to increased interaction with other people in enclosed spaces.
‘Our tourists may bring it down to the island or we contract it when we go to visit relatives up north. Our population may have less immunity to the flu because they are not exposed to the viruses prevalent in other locations,’ Dr. Robertson explained.
Many different viruses cause flu, she added. The doctor described the typical flu symptoms as high fever, headache, muscle pain and extreme weakness.
‘This can lead to vomiting as in a gastric flu, or respiratory infection, which can develop into the complication of a bacterial infection. At this stage, antibiotics will help, but not in the case of the initial flu syndrome,’ she said.
Measures to avoid flu aren’t difficult, Dr. Robertson added.
‘Flu is spread by the virus entering the eyes, nose or mouth by coughing or sneezing, or rubbed into these by contaminated hands and little fingers.
‘Children often come down with this because the younger they are the more closely they interact and they are not very good with hygiene, such as washing their hands.
‘Or if you are in close proximity, like a mother looking after a child with flu, it can be spread directly by the child.
‘With preschool and primary school children, it can spread like wildfire,’ she explained.
If someone gets the flu, several steps can be taken to deal with the symptoms.
‘Simple measures are usually very helpful like controlling fever, joint pain and headache through Panadol, Tylenol or ibuprofen. Concentrate on making sure hydration is adequate, particularly in small children. Offer plenty of clear fluids and simple nutrition, such as light meals often. That’s why the tradition of chicken soup is well known,’ she said.
The doctor added that many pharmacies will offer advice on flu medication and help people choose the right one for their symptoms.