Churches, restaurants and bars were abuzz this weekend with speculation surrounding the death of a 31-year-old man stricken with swine flu.
West Bayers were concerned, too, about a flu outbreak after three residents of the National Housing Trust in Capt. Joe Osborne Drive were hospitalised.
North Siders wanted to know what was being done at Caribbean Haven where the man who died was residing when he became ill.
Would they shut down the substance abuse treatment facility to sterilise it? What was being done about and for the employees at Caribbean Haven who have young children? What of the other clients who have flu-like symptoms?
Tongues were also wagging about the validity of flu testing done on Grand Cayman because the initial testing done on the 31-year-old man who passed away showed his body was negative for flu. We now know that isn’t true.
In the meantime, the Minister of Health and health care officials are working round the clock to answer questions, allay fears and try to contain any panic. It’s a Herculean effort and they are to be commended.
But in a country as small as the Cayman Islands and a community as small as Grand Cayman, it is difficult to not feel ill at ease that one in our midst has died of swine flu.
We have reported and editorialised before that millions of people die each year because of varying strains of flu. Usually it is those who are at higher risk who die.
One of the fears in Grand Cayman specifically is that many people work in enclosed offices with several people around us. When one person sneezes everyone wonders if that burst of spray contains flu germs.
Employers and employees can take a few measures to ensure their workplaces remain safe.
Firstly, sick workers should be encouraged to stay away from the workplace and encourage infection control practices in the workplace by displaying posters that address and remind workers about proper hand washing, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette.
Employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with pandemic H1N1 flu can go to work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day, notify their supervisor and stay home if they become ill. Employees who have an underlying medical condition or who are pregnant should call their health care provider for advice, because they might need to receive influenza antiviral drugs to prevent illness.
There are things we can all do to protect ourselves from H1N1 flu. If you have questions, please call the flu hotline at the hospital at 926-2812.