Late flu season for United States

The flu season in the United States officially began on Friday, 24 February, the latest it has started in 24 years.

But in the Cayman Islands, the number of cases being seen weekly are about average for the local flu season, according to the Medical Director of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar.

“[W]e are not seeing any abnormal occurrence at this time. We normally average about 40 to 60 cases per week outside the flu season,” Dr. Kumar said. “Looking at the last two months of 2010, we averaged about 100 cases per months and about 130 cases per week in January and February 2011.

“Similarly in November and December of 2011, there were an average of 110 flu-like cases per week reported. There were 755 cases reported from 1 January, 2012, to week ending 25 February, 2012, averaging 94 cases per week — ranging between 90 to 110,” he said.

Federal health officials in the United States announced last week that the flu season there was the mildest so far.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declares a flu season has officially started after three consecutive weeks in which more than 10 per cent of all respiratory specimens reported to it contain an influenza virus.

This season, the vast majority of cases were A(H3N2) strain flus, and the next most common are from the B group. In a typical American flu season, A(H1N1) is the most common strain, especially at the beginning.

Dr. Joseph Bresee of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the unusually warm winter in the US this year “might play a role”. Flu viruses survive longer on surfaces in cold, dry weather and in cold weather people tend to stay indoors, where they are more likely to transmit the disease.

Far fewer Americans than usual were hospitalised with flu and there have been only three confirmed flu deaths among children in the US this winter, compared with 122 last winter and more than 200 in the swine flu pandemic of 2009/2010, said Dr. Bresee, epidemiology chief at the CDC’s flu division.

Dr. Kumar said there were no more seasonal flu vaccines available in Cayman as they had already been given out.