Cayman waits for swine flu

While the Cayman Islands remained swine flu free at the end of last week, health officials still expect the virus will get here eventually.

While H1N1 flu is spreading fast, for now the virus is seemingly not causing serious illness, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar said Friday.

‘Due to our travel connection and tourism industry it is imminent that we will have cases in Cayman, and our goal is to contain H1N1 once it reaches our shores,’ he said.

Cayman will focus on identifying and then containing the H1N1 flu if and when it arrives, said Dr. Greg Hoeksema, the Health Services Authority’s medical director.

‘The HSA is not dropping its guard. It is not clear whether this was the first wave of the virus, and, possibly, a second, more significant wave might be coming. Therefore, health officials will keep a close eye on the lifecycle of the H1N1 virus,’ he said.

So far, the HSA has investigated a total of 16 patients with respiratory infections. All tested negative.

As of Friday, the World Health Organisation received reports of 7,520 confirmed cases of influenza A-H1N1 – including 65 deaths – from 34 countries. While this is serious, the WHO says the disease has not yet become a pandemic.

The organisation said it needs to see clear evidence of sustained community transmission of the swine flu virus from person-to-person in at least two regions of the world before it raises its alert to the phase six pandemic level.

In Cayman, public health nurses are manning the health desk at the airport daily from 11am until the last flight from the US arrives. So far only one patient has been sent to accident and emergency for assessment. The patient tested negative through local and CAREC tests.

One cargo ship arrived on 8 May from Mexico and was met by public health officials. None of the crew had any fever or flu-like symptoms, and they reported that they never went ashore in Mexico.

Public health officials have also travelled to Cayman Brac where they presented awareness sessions for Faith Hospital and District Administration staff.

They continue to remind that the best personal defence is good hygiene, including frequent hand washing. Good health is also important — eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising, they added.