Sick? Stay home

Officials hope to slow spread of swine flu

Health officials are urging anyone developing flu-like symptoms to stay at home as they try to stop further spread of the H1N1 swine flu virus in the Cayman Islands.

After confirming a second case Saturday and predicting more confirmed cases this week, health officials on Monday seemed resigned to the virus spreading locally.

The Caymanian Compass received reports of children being sent home from a number of schools around Grand Cayman Monday morning, in compliance with the requests of health officials.

‘If they have flu like illness the parents need to keep children home from school,’ said Dr. Greg Hoeksema, the Health Services Authority’s Medical Director. ‘If they are adult they need to stay home from work.

‘It’s the most important thing they can do to control the spread of virus around the Island,’ he said.

‘Based on our investigations on Friday it appears that [human to human] is already happening,’ he said, referring to tests done at the First Baptist School Friday, after a student at that school was confirmed as Cayman’s first H1N1 swine flu case last week.

Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Anna Matthews urged calm, saying the virus remains mild and no worse than regular seasonal flu.

‘This virus appears no more concerning than typical seasonal flu virus,’ she said. ‘We are asking people to keep that in context; there is no need to panic and we will continue to evaluate and treat anyone that is concerned and feels they should seek medical care.’

Their warnings came as new details emerged about Cayman’s second H1N1 case. Officials said the male adult reported flu like symptoms after returning from a trip to Las Vegas on 1 June.

The office worker spent two days at work while symptomatic; however health officials are confident none of his workmates caught the virus from him, as no additional illness has been reported at the workplace.

Though the man suffered more severe symptoms than the First Baptist student, he is now said to be mostly recovered and remains in home isolation after being treated with Tamiflu.

‘He’s doing fine,’ said Mr. Hoeksema. ‘He has an uncomplicated course.’

Officials now believe the First Baptist student passed the virus on to up to four people – three students and an adult – after spending four and a half days at school following a trip to New York in May, where he is thought to have caught the virus.

Confirmation of whether the four people have H1N1 flu or regular seasonal flu is expected by the week’s end.

Mr. Hoeksema said the likelihood that the virus has spread locally will mean health officials change their response to dealing with the virus.

‘Now that it appears that human to human transmission has occurred we are shifting to a different strategy, which is what was always envisaged.’

He said the original strategy of identifying imported cases and isolating them before they spread appears to have failed in the case of the First Baptist Student although was successful with the man returning from Las Vegas.

‘It appears he did infect other people before he came to our attention. So now we are going to shift over to another strategy in regards to how we use Tamiflu,’ he said.

‘Now we will use Tamiflu for anyone with severe illness … or if they are one of the many people that are high risk for developing complications from the flu,’ he said. ‘In a nutshell that is children under five; people over 65 and those with chronic medical problems.’

As of press time Monday, there had been almost 25,288 cases of the virus reported in 73 countries, including 139 deaths.