Swine flu cases surge to 33

The local number of confirmed H1N1 swine flu cases in the Cayman Islands has surged to 33, after 11 new cases this week.

Responding to the sharp increase, Health Minister Mark Scotland insisted that the flu strain circulating in Cayman is not a serious threat but said his ministry is monitoring the situation closely.

The jump in cases means Cayman has a comparatively high swine flu count compared to other Caribbean countries, given its tiny population. Mr. Scotland insisted that is a reflection of better case monitoring here rather than an indication the island is being overrun with the virus.

‘I am confident that these figures reflect the accessibility of our health care system as well as the robust surveillance system that is in place,’ Mr. Scotland said.

Cayman’s 33 cases put it on par with Jamaica, which also had 33 cases as of Wednesday, according to Pan American Health Organisation figures. There had been 109 confirmed cases in Cuba; 108 in the Dominican Republic; 65 in Trinidad and Tobago; 17 in Barbados; and 10 in the Bahamas.

The health minister said local health officials were due to meet Thursday with PAHO representative Dr. Ernest Pate to ensure they are doing all they can.

‘As part of PAHO’s ongoing support and technical assistance, Dr. Pate will meet with public health officials and hospital staff to review our response to the current flu pandemic,’ Mr. Scotland said.

He added: ‘I have further confirmed with public health officials that they will continue to follow the World Health Organisation’s guidelines in formulating our response strategy.’

As of Wednesday the Pan American Health Organisation said there had been 71,687 confirmed cases in the Americas, including 427 deaths.

Health officials have conceded the real count could be much higher than that however, with as many as 1 million cases in the US alone according to a recent projection by a US government scientist based on computer modelling.

Health Officials say the real number of cases in the Cayman Islands is probably much higher too, given that authorities are now asking people with flu symptoms to stay home rather than come to the hospital.

According to a WHO update, new guidelines will soon be released advising countries with confirmed H1N1 cases to cut back on testing all suspected cases and move toward larger surveillance indicators such as influenza-like illnesses or pneumonia hospitalisations.

In a statement, Mr. Scotland pledged that any change in the local response will be communicated to the public as soon as possible.

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