Cayman swine flu test ‘negative’

A Cayman resident that was tested last week for the H1N1 virus – also known as swine flu – has returned a negative result, health officials said Friday.

Health officials sent a sample to the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre for further testing after the person tested positive for Type A influenza following a trip to the United States.

Doctors were doubtful that the patient had swine flu, as she did not develop symptoms until 15 May – eight days after returning from the trip. The woman had also returned to a sick family.

Symptoms of the H1N1 virus generally present in patients within seven days of infection.

The woman was treated with the antiviral Tamiflu and ordered to stay at home, where family members were instructed to wear face marks and avoid sleeping in the same room as her.

Seventeen people in the Cayman Islands have been tested for flu-like symptoms since news of the H1N1 outbreak began, but all have returned negative results.

Health officials have said they think it is only a matter of time before a case of the virus arrives on Cayman’s shores, pointing to the sheer number of international tourists that the islands welcome every year.

Meanwhile, the US government said Friday it is inching closer to a swine flu vaccine and has begun analysing two candidates for the key ingredient to brew one.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hopes to deliver one or both to vaccine manufacturers by the end of next week so they can begin the months-long process of producing shots.

Friday, the US government set aside $1 billion for crucial testing of the first pilot doses and stockpiling of key ingredients, in case world health authorities decide that people indeed need to be vaccinated starting late this year.

Also on Friday, CDC scientists revealed the most detailed genetic examination yet of the novel virus, finding that the new swine flu may have been circulating undetected in pigs for years.

That report, in the journal Science, still fails to solve the bigger mystery of when and where the virus made the jump to people and what genetic change allowed it to start spreading so rapidly.

As of Sunday morning, the World Health Organisation’s global tally of H1N1 cases stood at 12,022 cases and 86 deaths in 42 countries.

More than half of those cases have been reported in the United States, while most of the deaths occurred in Mexico, where the virus was first detected last month.