Three more swine flu cases

Three more cases of the H1N1 swine flu virus were confirmed in the Cayman Islands Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to seven.

The patients, two women and a man, all became sick after returning from visits to the United States and all are recovering without complications or needing antiviral medication.

‘Given their travel history and the timeframe of their illnesses, we’re confident these are imported cases,” said Health Services Authority Medical Director Dr. Greg Hoeksema.

One family member was evaluated Friday to determine if there had been human-to-human transmission within a household.

The latest cases were confirmed in test results from the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre in Trinidad.

Two students from the First Baptist Christian School, an eight-year-old girl from another primary school and a George Town office worker have all previously been confirmed with the virus.

Dr. Hoeksema pointed out that the HSA has been expecting more imported cases, given the frequency of travel between Cayman and the United States.

“With the high volume of travel between the Cayman Islands and the US, it was inevitable that we would have additional imported cases,’ he said. ‘We can still expect even more since recent news reports indicate that a cool spring has prolonged the flu season in the United States.”

Health officials are advising anyone who develops fever and flu-like symptoms to stay in home isolation until their symptoms have completely resolved.

In addition to the H1N1 confirmations, testing has also confirmed that the three other typical seasonal flu viruses are still circulating here in Cayman, so this recommendation serves to mitigate the spread of all four influenza viruses.

“The illness associated with the novel H1N1 flu virus is mild,’ Dr. Hoeksema said. ‘Our advice is to stay at home and only seek medical care with your regular physician if you are concerned about the severity of your illness.

‘However, persons who are at increased risk of developing complications of the flu should visit their doctor. These include children under five; people over 65; people with serious chronic medical problems; people with immune deficiency; and women who are pregnant,” he said.

Health officials said people who have a fever and flu-like symptoms – headache, chills, cough, chest pain, sore throat, muscle aches, diarrhoea, vomiting – should:

* Remain at home until all symptoms have completely resolved, typically 4-10 days;

*Take over-the-counter medication as needed to relieve symptoms, but do not give children under 18 years of age any aspirin-containing products;

*Drink lots of water and other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages to avoid becoming dehydrated;

*If sick people develop diarrhoea or vomiting, it’s a good idea to rest, eat only small amounts of food at a time, and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

As of Saturday, there had been more than 44,000 confirmed H1N1 swine flu cases in 88 countries, including 180 deaths.

As the virus continued its march throughout the Caribbean, Trinidadian authorities on Friday said they were cancelling next month’s inaugural Caribbean Games, saying there was too great a risk of spreading swine flu by hosting the region’s athletes and supporters.

Minister of Health Jerry Narace said he recommended rescheduling the weeklong event until the flu threat subsides, but officials determined it would be too difficult to find another date this year so “postponement will mean cancellation.”

At least a dozen participants in a volleyball tournament, including players from the Trinidad and Suriname teams, tested positive for H1N1 influenza after a tournament in Trinidad last week.

Mr. Narace said the fact that athletes and their delegations had to share rooms was a factor in the spread of the virus.

Cayman residents seeking more information and advice about HIN1 can call the Public Health Department/HSA 24-hour flu hotline at 926-2812.