If you have found yourself battling a case of the summertime sniffles recently, you are not alone.
Public Health officials have said they are seeing spikes in reports of cold and flu symptoms in recent weeks; however, they say those numbers are still below levels recorded in previous years, thanks to the legacy of Cayman’s COVID-19 health measures.
Timothy McLaughlin-Munroe, senior Public Health Surveillance Officer/Deputy National Epidemiologist, told the Cayman Compass in an emailed response to queries, that in the last three months, the number of cold and flu cases has picked up.
“We are currently seeing 20-35 cases per week. This is manageable and is not overwhelming the health care system currently. Yes, in the last three months the numbers have increased a little: in April, 101 cases [were] detected; 128 for May; 155 cases in June and so far in July, 109 cases,” he explained, with two weeks of numbers still to be reported for the month.
These cases, he said, are mostly clinical diagnoses of influenza and none of the patients have required ventilation.
McLaughlin-Munroe, looking at overall flu figures, said there has been no increase for the year to date.
“The average this year is 36 cases per week, well below the usual annual average of 95-115 cases per week. This is possibly due to the measures used to suppress and control the spread of COVID 19; for example, frequent hand washing, wearing of masks, and limiting exposure where possible,” he said.
Comparing figures from July 2021 with July 2020, he said cases are much lower.
“The year-to-date comparison with this time last year: for week 28 of 2020, we had detected 2,793 cases of influenza-like illness. For week 28 of 2021 ending July 10, we have a total of 1,000 cases of influenza-like illnesses reported,” he said.
As for the recent slight peak in cases, McLaughlin-Munroe said patients have been reporting fever, muscle pain, fatigue, headache, coughing, stuffy nose and, in a few cases, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
“Usually during the summer, our numbers remain low and consistent and would naturally peak again in September, when schools would open back. Last year, we did not see that peak or spike in cases; schools resumed in a staggered pattern and non-essential travel was prohibited. Usually during the influenza season, we would detect 100+ cases per week. March 2020 was the last week with more than 100 cases per week,” he said.
McLaughlin-Munroe urged the public to continue to wash and sanitise their hands frequently and stay hydrated, by drinking lots of water.
Most importantly, he said, “isolate as much as possible from sick persons having flu-like symptoms, and refrain from non-essential travel if possible. If symptoms persist and become more severe, please do not hesitate to seek medical attention.”
He said, at this time, the flu vaccine is not being administered at the Health Services Authority.
“This will resume later in the year when the next season’s vaccine becomes available,” he added.
In terms of treating the symptoms, McLaughlin-Munroe recommended Panadol or ibuprofen, staying hydrated and bed rest.
“However, if symptoms persist, seek medical attention,” he cautioned.