The Public Health Department says it is maintaining a “heightened state of awareness and vigilance” regarding a suspected case of meningitis.
Health officials say they are still awaiting laboratory test results in the case and are working with health authorities from overseas to determine whether a public health response is warranted.
The department issued a statement on Tuesday, which follows the death last month of a young man suspected of having the disease.
Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams said other than that one suspected case, no other cases of suspected meningitis have been reported to the Public Health Department.
“Taking into account the information available, the Public Health Department continues to be vigilant, but we don’t believe that the population is facing an increased risk of developing any infectious disease related with the suspected case of meningitis,’” Dr. Williams told the Cayman Compass.
He said that individuals, especially children, should ensure that their scheduled vaccinations are up to date. They can do this by contacting the Public Health Department at the Cayman Islands Hospital for further information on vaccinations.
Dr. Williams would not comment on the individual case that led to the issuing of the public health statement, due to patient confidentiality.
According to Tuesday’s statement, “Preliminary laboratory investigations regarding a suspected case of meningitis are still pending, but the Public Health Department is maintaining a heightened state of awareness and vigilance.”
Noting that meningitis can result from bacterial or viral infections, physical injury, disease or drugs, Dr. Williams said his department is awaiting the outcome of “extensive laboratory analysis” from overseas on the local case.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the tissue that covers the brain and the spinal cord.
Viral meningitis is the most common type. It is often less severe than bacterial meningitis, and most people usually get better on their own without treatment, the public health office said. However, infants younger than one month old and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe illness with viral meningitis.
Although viral meningitis is rarely fatal, bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening. As the symptoms of both are nearly identical, Dr. Williams explained that conclusive tests are necessary to determine which variety of the disease a patient has, and to inform any plans by his department.
While people with meningitis can potentially infect others, the likelihood of widespread transmission is extremely low as the bacteria cannot live for more than a few minutes outside the body, according to the Public Health Department.
Two vaccines approved by the World Health Organization to combat meningitis infection are available in the Cayman Islands – the Hib component of the combined DTaP IPV Hib vaccine and the meningococcal vaccine MPSV4.
Dr. Williams said that with 95 percent vaccination coverage in the Cayman Islands, any person-to-person transmission of the disease is “bound to be minimal.”