The Cayman Islands has had its first confirmed death related to the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu.
The Caribbean Epidemiology Centre in Trinidad confirmed late Friday afternoon that lab results showed the 31-year-old male resident of Caribbean Haven that died in the hospital last Monday had the H1N1 virus.
Test results for the man done locally had initially shown a negative result for H1N1. However, two other residents of Caribbean Haven – a substance abuse treatment facility – tested positive for swine flu here. One of them was hospitalised, but has since been discharged. In total, five nasal swab specimens were sent to Trinidad for testing.
Although the results of all of those tests done in Trinidad had not been released as of Saturday afternoon, Minister of Health Mark Scotland did issue a statement on Friday confirming Cayman’s first H1N1 death and promising that health officials would provide further details at a press briefing Monday.
‘We all hoped that no on in Cayman would be severely affected by H1N1,’ Mr. Scotland said in his statement. ‘But this unfortunate death shows that as a country, we face the same challenges in managing this illness as do other countries around the world.
‘Sadly, it is a fact that persons with underlying medical conditions, such as the young man who passed away, are susceptible to serious complications, and sometimes death.’
Public Health officials have not said what the deceased man’s underlying medical condition was.
Mr. Scotland said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar and his team visited Caribbean Haven immediately following the resident’s death.
‘They also tested those who had flu symptoms, and offered them the drug Tamiflu as treatment,’ he said. ‘As a preventative measure, Tamiflu was also offered to staff and residents who did not have flu symptoms.’
Mr. Scotland said the Cayman Islands Government has adequate supplies of Tamiflu.
‘I… remind [the public] to do their part, by remaining calm and following public health advisories,’ he said. ‘It is very important that we understand that H1N1, as well as seasonal flu, are national health issues. We all have important roles in preventing their spread.’
A Public Health Department team also visited a West Bay neighbourhood Thursday to calm fears of a flu outbreak in the area, Dr. Kumar confirmed.
‘We met with residents to inform and reassure them, after three residents of the National Housing Trust affordable housing development in Capt. Jose Osborne Drive were hospitalized with the flu,’ Dr. Kumar said in another press release issued Friday.
‘We discussed the nature of the H1N1 virus, how to prevent the spread of it, and how to care for those who get sick.’
Dr. Kumar said health officials understand people’s fear, especially in light of the increasing number of cases locally, as well as the rise in the number of hospitalisations.
‘We will continue to educate the public, and anyone with concerns should call the Public Health Department,’ he said. ‘It is important that people have the correct information so they can be full partners in the effort to contain the H1N1 virus.’
The Public Health Department explained in the press release what it meant to be in a high risk group when it came to influenza.
‘High risk groups are those people who, when they do get the flu, have a higher probability of getting severely ill. It does not mean that they are at higher risk of catching the virus.’
High risk groups include children under the age of five; adults over the age of 65; pregnant women; persons with weakened immune systems; and persons with chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.
Statistics from the US Center for Disease Control show that the highest rates of infection for the H1N1 virus are in those under 25 years of age, and the median age of hospitalized cases in the US is 19 years old.
‘This means that, even if you are not in a high risk group, you have to monitor your illness and seek medical attention if your symptoms are severe.’
Dr. Kumar said the overwhelming majority of persons in the Cayman Islands who have contracted H1N1 have experienced mild symptoms and make a rapid and full recovery, often without any medical treatment.