Immigration briefed on swine flu

Staff briefed on sanitisers

Health officials briefed the Immigration Department this week on how frontline staff can protect themselves from swine flu.

Immigration officers at the airport or the port are advised to stay more than six feet from passengers who are sneezing, and three feet from those who are coughing.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar gave a presentation to immigration officers and staff on Monday.

‘If they see someone in the waiting area showing symptoms of flu, coughing or sneezing, we advised them to take them aside, serve them first and dispose of them fast,’ said Dr. Kumar.

Immigration desks now hold hand sanitisers to ensure staff clean their hands after handling passports, and hand sanitising stations have been erected at the airport.

Bruce Smith, deputy chief immigration officer in charge of border control and enforcement explained that staff were advised to stay three feet from people who were coughing or six feet from passengers who were sneezing.

He said passengers were normally about five feet from immigration officers while their travel documents were being dealt with at border crossings.

Mr. Smith said procedures were also in place to ensure staff who were suffering from flu symptoms took time off work.

‘No one in the Immigration Department has been confirmed to have H1N1, but certainly there have been some people with flu symptoms,’ he said, adding that those staff were asked to remain at home.

‘Any staff with flu-like illness are reporting it to us. Staff now have become sensitised to take into account that if they see themselves getting progressively worse with severe flu-like symptoms, they need to take time off.’

Mr. Smith said the department had a contingency plan to deal with a mass sick-out, including ensuring staff were cross trained so they could take on frontline duties at the airport or port.

He said the message of basic and common sense hygiene issues, such as regularly washing hands with soap and water, and disposing of tissues properly, was being stressed to staff.

Among those attending Monday’s meeting were a a number of expectant mothers. Pregnant women are especially at risk with H1N1, as this strain of flu can cause major complications for an unborn child.

As of Saturday, Cayman had 85 confirmed cases of swine flu, although health officials have estimated that up to 1,600 people could have become infected with H1N1 this year.