New: classmate could have spread swine flu

Health officials are concerned that more students at First Baptist Christian School may have caught N1H1 swine flu from an infected classmate.

The school was closed Friday, after the male student – whose age has not been released – tested positive as Cayman’s first swine flu case Thursday.

‘Through speaking with some of the parents last night, we have reason to believe that [further contamination] might have happened,’ said Dr. Greg Hoeksema, the Health Services Authority’s medical director.

‘There is one child that has a febrile respiratory illness so obviously we are looking closely at that child,’ he said.

Public health officials held a clinic at the school Friday morning to allow students and staff that have been sick over the past week to be tested for the influenza.

Samples from those testing positive for type-A influenza, which includes regular seasonal flu, will be sent for further tests at a laboratory in Trinidad. It will take up to a week for the results to come back.

The student is suspected to have caught the disease on a trip to New York, from which he returned on 25 May. The boy is understood to have developed symptoms two days later and was taken to the Cayman Islands hospital on 29 May.

Speaking at a press conference Friday morning, Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kiran Kumar, said officials will monitor the situation over the weekend before deciding whether to reopen the school on Monday.

Health Minister Mark Scotland, at his first press conference in his new role, warned against panic or alarm.

‘There is no need for panic, but we need to take this seriously,’ he said.

‘This is a national health issue, and while government will do all it can, I want residents to also take responsibility – arm yourselves with facts and learn as much as possible about H1N1,’ he said.

‘Follow the advice of public health officials: Stay at home if you are sick and follow the rules of good personal hygiene.’

Dr. Kumar said the boy only displayed very mild symptoms and is recovering well in home isolation.

Health officials spoke with parents from the school Thursday night and Friday morning and have set up a hotline for anyone wanting more information on the situation. The number is 926-2812.

Dr. Hoeksema cited US data that shows that the H1N1 flu virus has an attack rate of 10 per cent in public and 20 per cent at home.

“This means that for every 10 people a sick person comes into contact with, one might get sick,” he said.

Health officials said they will continue to keep the public informed of any developments. It is important to remember that the best personal defence against H1N1 is good hygiene:

– Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

– Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

– If you are sick, stay home from work or school and protect others by avoiding close contact with them.

– Good health is also important — eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising.