Four people are in the Cayman Islands Hospital with tuberculosis, according to the Public Health Department.
Department officials said initial indications are that the cases were all contracted overseas.
The highly infectious disease spreads through airborne germs, attacking the lungs, and is characterized by a heavy cough. The Cayman Islands typically has three or four cases of TB per year, but the hospital reported seeing seven cases so far in 2015, public health officials say.
Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez told the Cayman Compass his department is still investigating the four cases, but he said the department “reasonably believes they’re imported.”
He said the cases involve people from “several nationalities” but would not be more specific due to patient privacy.
“TB germs become airborne when a person who has the disease in the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings. People who have close contact for a prolonged period of time with an infectious patient (i.e. household members, co-workers in enclosed areas, etc.,) are at higher risk of contagion,” Dr. Williams-Rodriguez said in a press release issued by the Department of Public Health Thursday. The TB vaccine is given to children as part of standard vaccinations. Nurse Angela Graham, immunization manager for the department, said in the statement, “When given under one year, it provides protection for children against the most severe forms of TB.”
The Public Health Department notice states, “Symptoms of tuberculosis include weakness, weight loss, night sweats, sneezing, a severe cough (usually for more than three weeks), spitting up phlegm and blood and a high fever for three or more days.”
The department wants parents to check their children’s immunization records and make sure they received the vaccine.”
Since 2010, the Public Health Department has confirmed 23 cases of TB in the Cayman Islands.