Flu contingency plan circulated

85 confirmed H1N1 ‘swine flu’ cases in Cayman

The Health Services Authority has sent 1,000 copies of a contingency plan to companies, churches and organisations in Cayman to guide them on what to do during the swine flu pandemic.

Kiran Kumar

Dr. Kiran Kumar

The contingency plan was originally drawn up in 2007 to deal with the avian flu, H5N1, which was at the time considered the biggest influenza threat.

Caswell Walford, public relations officer for the Health Services Authority said the 82-page plan had been sent to ‘almost every company in Cayman’.

As of Saturday, there were 85 confirmed cases of swine flu, known as H1N1, in Cayman, according to Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar. Cayman has seen one fatal case of H1N1.

Dr. Kumar said 1,000 copies of the plan were distributed between September 2007 and earlier this year. Another 2,000 copies of the plan, the printing of which has been paid for by Sagicor General insurance company, were printed in May and 1,000 of those have now been distributed.

Dr. Kumar said all cases of influenza in Cayman were now being treated as H1N1 and doctors were being advised to treat patients with Tamiflu if they were showing symptoms of influenza and fever.

‘In the recent past, most samples have been coming back as positive [for H1N1]. Based on that, we’ve concluded that most cases of flu are H1N1,’ Dr. Kumar said.

He said the number of cases being reported were dropping, but health services were preparing for another wave in November, when flu season traditionally begins.

The contingency plan suggests that business continuity plans should be based on a cumulative total of 25 per cent of workers taking some time off – possibly five to eight working days – over a period of three to four months.

It states that 50 per cent of schoolchildren could be affected as influenza would spread rapidly in schools, but it did not recommend the closure of schools.

The key public health messages in the plan are, if a person catches flu, stay at home and rest, take aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve symptoms (but children under 18 should not be given aspirin), and drink plenty of fluids.

It advises covering the nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing, dispose of dirty tissues by bagging and binning them, avoid non-essential travel and large crowds, wash hands regularly with soap and water, and clean surfaces like door handles and kitchen worktops frequently.

It advises putting in place measures to ensure core business activities are maintained for several weeks at high levels of absenteeism, including remote working and increasing online options for customers and business partners.

The plan also advises companies to identify essential functions, posts and individuals whose absence would place a company at particular risk and also identify services that could be curtailed or closed down during the most intense part of a pandemic.

It includes a checklist for businesses on steps to take protect employees’ health while limiting the effect of the outbreak of flu on the economy.

As of Monday, 27 July, the latest update available from the World Health Organisation showed there were a total of 134,503 cases reported worldwide, with 826 fatalities. However, given that countries are no longer required to test and report individual cases, the number of cases reported understates the real number of cases.

Dr. Kumar said he and Health Services Authority staff were giving talks to organisations throughout Cayman to educate them on steps to take during a pandemic.

Among those being addressed are pregnant women who have particularly at risk from H1N1, he said.

Any company, school, church or other organisation that would like a copy of the contingency plan or would like to get more information about H1N1 should call 244-2632.