Flu vaccine due November

The European Commission authorised H1N1 swine flu vaccinations last week, paving the way for Cayman to receive its first batch of the inoculations.

Cayman’s Medical Director of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar said he had been informed by the European Commission on Tuesday that as a British Overseas Territories, Cayman would receive a supply of the vaccinations.

‘We are still awaiting word from the UK on the timing of the arrival of the H1N1 vaccine,’ Dr. Kumar said, adding that he expected it to arrive in November and that he would be told in the next two weeks how much Cayman would receive.

Cayman is seeing double the number of influenza cases in the current flu season than it did last year.

Usually at this time of year, Dr. Kumar said, the Health Services Authority clinics and the Grand Cayman Hospital would see between 50 and 70 cases of influenza a week, but in recent weeks, they have been seeing between 110 and 120 cases a week.

‘Just like in other parts of the world, our monitoring system is indicating at this point in time, there are double the usual numbers we’ve seen in the past, certainly than at the same period in 2008.

‘It’s also happening in the UK and US. The good thing is there are no serious ailments and no [hospital] admissions here,’ he said.

Dr. Kumar said there had been two people admitted to hospital with influenza in the past month – one was confirmed to have H1N1 and the other had influenza B.

One person has died of swine flu in Cayman. A 31-year-old male resident of Caribbean Haven, who died in July, was confirmed to have had H1N1.

Dr. Kumar said the current high level of influenza being experienced in Cayman was both of seasonal flu and swine flu.

He added that the exact number of cases of swine flu was not known because the HSA is not testing for specific swine flu cases.

‘We’re continuing to monitor the situation,’ he said.

Unlike in some US cities, such as New York where flu jabs are mandatory for health workers, Cayman has no plans to insist that its medical staff are vaccinated against H1N1.

‘We don’t have mandatory vaccinations for anyone here,’ he said.

A suspected outbreak of H1N1 at the Lighthouse School last month was found to be a false alarm. Seven staff members called in with flu-like symptoms at the school, prompting public health officials to investigate a potential flu outbreak, but when the staff were examined they had either already recovered or had upper respiratory illnesses.