Flu cases rise

The number of flu cases in Cayman has jumped almost 50 per cent over the past week, according to public health officials.

Medical Officer of Health Kiran Kumar said there had been a ‘notable increase in flu activity this past week with 176 cases reported’.

In recent weeks, there has been an average of 120 cases a week. That figure is double the average number of flu cases seen last year.

Dr. Kumar said that the number of cases had remained static during the last month, until the hike in the past week.

In schools, flu surveillance data compiled by school health nurses show that flu case numbers rose after the September school opening, peaking in the third and forth weeks of that month.

‘On a weekly average, there have been about 45-50 children and five to nine staff in schools and pre-schools that have reported flu-like symptoms, with a slight increase in the last week,’ Dr. Kumar said.

‘We ask teachers and students to be diligent with hand washing and cover their coughs and sneezes. Most importantly, parents must keep sick children at home,’ Dr. Kumar said.

There is no need for healthy children to stay away from school, he added.

Triple C High School announced this week that some of its students had suspected swine flu and that parents who wanted to keep their children home from school as a precautionary measure could do so.

Common symptoms to look for include fever, sore throat, coughing and a runny nose.

Dr. Kumar noted that if children experience mild illness, parents should treat them with over-the-counter fever medication.

‘You only have to seek medical attention when needed. We know that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, and as such we can assume that most flu cases are from the H1N1 virus. And so, there is no longer any need to test every case,’ he said.

Education Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues said that schools continue to monitor the situation closely, and she also asked parents pay attention to public health advice: ‘We are in the beginning of flu season, and we should all play our part in minimising the spread of the virus.’

The Health Services Authority opened a dedicated flu clinic at the Cayman Islands Hospital on 10 November. People who have serious symptoms and who believe they may have swine flu are urged to visit the clinic.

Cayman is awaiting swine flu vaccines from the United Kingdom, and health officials expect them to arrive in late December or early January.

To date, the public health service has vaccinated about 2,800 people for seasonal flu, with an estimated 2,000 more getting the seasonal vaccination privately, accounting for 6-8 per cent of the population, Dr. Kumar said.

While Dr. Kumar had initially asked for 55,000 doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine, most recently he has requested 12,500 doses from the UK. He said the Health Services Authority would monitor the uptake of the swine flu vaccine when it arrives to determine how much more might be needed on island.

The health authorities hope more swine flu vaccinations can be obtained, if necessary, from the Pan American Health Organisation and also directly from a manufacturer.

For more information on H1N1 swine flu, visit www.CaymanPrepared.ky or www.hsa.ky. The Health Services Authority has established a Flu Clinic and has a flu email and message system – [email protected] – where residents can get more information.