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Officials record 15th case of local chikungunya

| 29/12/2014 | 0 Comments

CNS): Throughout 2014 over 90 people living in Cayman have contracted the mosquito-transmitted chikungunya virus, with most of them picking up the illness in regional countries. Public health officials said they received two more positive test results for the virus from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) over the period 9-20 December. While one had been to Cuba, the other had no travel history and had acquired the virus locally, bringing the total number of local transmissions to 15 cases. Dr Kiran Kumar, the medical officer of health, said that cases are declining here and around the region but urged people to still take precautions against mosquito bites and help prevent their breeding.

“In October suspected cases ranged from 20-25 per week, then fell to eight to 15 per week in November, and three to nine in December. There has also been a decrease in the number of cases reported in the region,” he explained. “Although suspected cases are on the decline and local transmission has not been aggressive, we should not be complacent. We should continue to protect ourselves from mosquito bites and to eliminate breeding sites around our properties.”

The total number of suspected cases of chikungunya reported since 25 June  is 202. Fifty-six of these patients have reported travel history to countries experiencing outbreaks.

Meanwhile, the total number of laboratory-confirmed chikungunya cases in the Cayman Islands to date is 43, with an additional possible 29 people who had recently travelled to countries experiencing outbreaks. As per CARPHA guidelines, blood samples for suspected cases with travel history to endemic areas are no longer being sent for testing but are considered possible cases. 

To date the total distribution of confirmed and possible cases has been 37 in George Town, 15 in West Bay, 12 in Bodden Town, 5 in Cayman Brac, 2 in Little Cayman and one in North Side.

More information can be obtained through www.hsa.ky. Regional updates can be accessed by visiting the CARPHA website.

In addition United States updates are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Last of the hospital’s flu vaccines on offer

| 18/12/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Local health officials are offering the public a last chance to inoculate against flu this winter as there a few hundred shots left from the hospital order of around 3000. Dr Kiran Kumar, the director of primary health care, said the peak flu season is now underway and no more vaccine will be purchased but the remaining doses will be offered on a first come first serve basis at no cost to all residents and no appointments are necessary. People wanting shots can visit the general practice clinic at the Cayman Islands hospital, Faith hospital in Cayman Brac and all district health centres, from 2- 4pm Monday through Friday. Residents in Little Cayman should contact the clinic to make arrangements. For further information contact the Public Health Department on 244-2648.

 

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Hospital to continue quit-course for smokers

| 11/12/2014 | 9 Comments

(CNS): Some five years after the Cayman government implemented the tobacco law banning smoking in public buildings and other areas the minister of health was still concerned recently that too many people are smoking. He said the island may even have to consider a complete smoking ban to stop people smoking as the limited ban and the high price, Osbourne Bodden said had still not stopped people smoking. But before that is on the table the hospital is trying to help smokers quit. Following the first course of its kind this year, fifty percent of the people who participated in the new smoking cessation programme, and who completed the course, managed to kick the habit, which has spurred organisers to prepare a second similar programme in February.

The stop smoking course was run by Cayman Islands Health Services Authority’s (HSA) Public Health Department. Called ‘I Can Quit’, the first programme was launched in June, just after the annual World Tobacco Day Designed to empower smokers to break the habit through a combined effort that included a variety of support services.

It ran for seven weeks and began with 13 participants, who were both HSA staff and members of the general public. Out of the 13, eight completed the course and four successfully quit smoking and three others have cut down, officials said.

Lizzette Yearwood, Chief Executive Officer said the results were extremely encouraging.
“Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease around the world, killing six million people every year,” she said. “The most current report from America’s Surgeon General’s recommends providing access to cessation treatments, and expanding these services for all smokers, so our focus has been to assist smokers using a comprehensive programme that targets the multiple factors associated with why a person continues to smoke. We are absolutely delighted that for those participants who have managed to conquer their addiction may now go on to leading a far healthier life.”

The Cayman Islands has its own worrying statistics on the smoking habits of residents. The 2012 Cayman Islands Government Chronic Disease Risk Factor Survey, known as the ‘Healthy Nation’ survey, found that 15% of the population’s 25-64 year olds smoked tobacco, with men twice as likely as women to do so. Among those who smoked 67% did so daily. For both men and women, smokers started smoking tobacco at an average age of 20 and those aged 25-34 years started smoking at approximately 18 years of age. Daily smokers have an average of 11 cigarettes per day.

“The ‘I Can Quit’ programme was therefore a timely intervention and plays an integral part of the HSA’s overall chronic disease management programme,” Yearwood added.

Therese Prehay, Health Promotion Officer of the Public Health Department and a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist, coordinated the ‘I Can Quit’ programme and explained the objectives of the course. 

“Smokers learned about the triggers and how to conquer them, as well as how to cope with withdrawal symptoms,” Prehay said. “We offered participants medication to help them quit their addiction and remain smoke free along with group support”.

At each weekly session, participants had their weight, blood pressure and carbon monoxide levels in the lungs and blood measured.

“Three participants whose combined initial nicotine levels averaged 25.7 declined to as little as 6.7 per person at the end of programme. This effort represents a 285% improvement from the initial baseline and is particularly impressive,” Prehay said. “All participants who completed the programme were extremely satisfied with the many different aspects of the curriculum. The positive feedback impacted the programme tremendously, so we very much look forward to presenting the next programme early next year.”

People interested in quitting smoking should contact the Public Health Department on tel. 244-2889/244-2648, or email sarah.hetley@hsa.ky to register by January 14th 2015 for the next programme which begins on February 4 2015.

Visit www.hsa.ky for more information and services offered at the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority.

Should Cayman become a completely smoke free island? Vote here in the CNS Poll

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CI records 14th local case of Chikungunya virus

| 11/12/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Although Cayman is largely managing to contain local transmission of chikungunya virus the numbers for the year of people picking up the virus here are steadily increasing as the number of people in Cayman are contracting the disease overseas. Over the last week another four cases were confirmed two caught the mosquito transmitted disease in Jamaica and a third in Puerto Rico but a fourth had not left the island. Given that the virus is now widespread across the Caribbean region the Caribbean Public Health Agency is no longer testing cases where people have been in endemic countries and patients are being treated for the disease on diagnosis by doctors.

The total number of laboratory confirmed chikungunya cases in the Cayman Islands to date is 41 but another 27 patients have been treated for it having travelled to endemic countries. Results from 16 samples are still awaited. So far 34 patients came from  George Town, 15 from West Bay, 12 from Bodden Town and four in Cayman Brac, two live on Little Cayman and just two person in North Side has tested positive. 53 patients have reported travel history to countries experiencing outbreaks and results from 16 samples are still awaited

Meanwhile, public officials said that there were no new case of Dengue fever here this week and there have been just four cases so far this year. They also urged people to keep
Protecting themselves from the Aedes aegypti mosquito by using repellent with DEET on the skin, and wearing long sleeve pants and shirts when outside during times that mosquitoes bite, whether in the Cayman Islands or travelling.

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Local HIV figures low but public urged to get tested

| 03/12/2014 | 8 Comments

(CNS): As the global community marked another World Aids Day at the start of this month the Cayman Islands is still retaining a low prevalence rate of the disease. However, officials are still urging people to take advantage of free testing this week to ensure that people know their status and can continue to prevent the spread of the virus and avoid developing AIDS. Since the first documented diagnosis in Cayman 1985 to date, just 123 people have tested positive for HIV. With 43 of those people dying from AIDS and 18 patients having left Cayman 62 people are living with HIV locally.

Sexual transmission still accounts for 90 of cases here more than half of which are via heterosexual intercourse.  There have been just four recorded cases of mother to child transmissions and the last case was in 2004.

The Public Health Department, the Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Cayman Islands Red Cross have partnered to organize free HIV/AIDS testing this week. Officials promised the testing will “be speedy and confidential.”

No appointment is necessary and the waiting time should be no more than ten minutes. People who wish to be tested and/or receive counselling need only indicate to the registration clerks that they would like to register for free HIV screening. The results will be available in three working days. These will be given only to the patient, who mustreturn to the clinic where the test was taken to receive the results. Those who have taken the test outside of clinics will be advised on how to get the results at the time of testing.

In future from Tuesday 6 January next year free HIV testing will be available year-round at the Cayman Islands Red Cross on Thomas Russell Way, every Tuesday between 9 and 10am.

Osbourne Bodden, the health minister said that the Caribbean region which has the highest transmission rate outside sub-Saharan Africa said local initiatives will help to reduce new HIV infections, late diagnosis and AIDS-related deaths.  As he pointed to the UN’s goa for the region to be clear of the disease in the not too distance future and for everyone to know their status.

Each year World AIDS Day draws together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. It also seeks to encourage progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in high prevalence countries around the world.

Globally 35 million people live with HIV and more than 39 million have died of AIDS since 1981.

The theme of World AIDS Days between 2011 and 2015 is: "Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths". This year marks a push towards greater access to treatment for all and action by governments.

For more information on HIV testing and other activities please contact HIV/AIDS Coordinator Laura Whitfield at 244-2631 or Health Promotion Officer Therese Prehay at 244-2632.

See break down of Cayman statistics on HIV and AIDS below

 

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Local officials meet regional health boss on Ebola

| 27/11/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Although there are no reported cases of Ebola in Cayman Islands or anywhere in the Caribbean, local medical personnel and the health ministry said they are continuing preparations for the unlikely event of an Ebola (EVD) patient arriving in Cayman. Dr James Hospedales, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), met with the health minister, Osbourne Bodden and members of the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority senior management team on 22 November to review the preparedness plans.  “Though we have not had a case, we cannot be complacent,” said Dr Hospedales.

“We must take measures to strengthen individual national and regional preparedness, which will also serve us to face future threats beyond Ebola….I am pleased with the preparedness plans Cayman Islands has put in place for quarantine, isolation and management to be ready to meet the challenge, in the unlikely event of a case being imported.”

Here have been only a handful of visitors to the Caribbean during the past five years from the most affected countries, particularly Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and the chances of importation of cases from that region are remote. However, the recent incident involving a US health care worker who had, had contact with an Ebola patient who took a Caribbean

cruise, demonstrated how easily the virus could be spared almost anywhere in the world.
However, the investment required to be fully prepared for what is still a remote but very dangerous possibility can be significant and Cayman has already allocated some $3million to ensure that should an infected person arrive here, officials can contain and treat the patient.

Dr Hospedales noted the problem faced by small nations when it comes to preparations for the arrival of a contagious patient of such a deadly disease.

“As it is very difficult for small nations to be fully prepared, CARPHA is working towards the development of a Regional Coordinating Mechanism for Ebola, the establishment of which was mandated by a Special Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in Port of Spain on November 4th, 2014.”

Bodden said he was satisfied with the preparedness measures undertaken and assured the public that the funds approved will be used diligently. Thanking Dr Hospedales for his words of encouragement Bodden noted the available regional support should the need arise. While government is taking appropriate measures, he urged the residents not to travel to West Africa unless it is absolutely necessary.

A total of 15351 cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) have been reported across six countries (Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States of America) and two previously affected countries (Nigeria, Senegal) up to the end of November 18, 2014.  This is the largest and longest ever outbreak of the disease.

There have been 5459 reported deaths. A total of 588 health-care workers (HCWs) are known to have been infected with EVD, and 337 HCWs have died.  The outbreaks of EVD in Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and Nigeria were declared over.

There have been 4 cases and 1 death in the United States of America.  All patients have been discharged from hospital, and all contacts in the country have completed the 21-day follow-up period. 

Although there is only limited treatment for the deadly haemorrhagic virus, recent human trials of a new vaccine are said to be showing promise according to the latest international reports.

The Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or body fluids such as saliva, mucus, vomit, urine or faeces of an Ebola Virus Disease infected person (alive or dead).  Officials say that people with the virus who symptom free cannot transmit Ebola. Any person who has travelled to, from, or through Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone or Mali within 21 days of planned arrival in the Cayman Islands will be subjected to health screening and quarantine measures on their arrival.

The team that met Dr James Hospedales included Osbourne Bodden, Minister of Health; and the Health Services Authority Senior Management Team: Lizzette Yearwood, Chief Executive Officer; Dr Delroy Jefferson, Medical Director; Dr Kiran Kumar, Medical Officer of Health; Hazel Brown, Chief Nursing Officer; and Andria Dilbert, Director of Corporate Services.

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Organisers brag of largest ever health conference

| 27/11/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): With some 850 delegates, 50 sponsors and 40 exhibitors, this year’s national Healthcare Conference was the largest since the annual event began five years ago. Organisers Tower marketing said the key to the success of the Healthcare Conference is the objective to make real and tangible differences in the health and wellness of the people of the Cayman Islands. Focusing on non-communicable diseases and helping to educate people to healthier lifestyles the health minister Osbourne Bodden said government is committed to helping improve health and the conference does much to educate and inform attendees on the many different ways in which they can make improvements. During his speech the minister urged people to make the most of the free advice to reduce their risks of getting sick.

“Many Caymanians are leading unhealthy lifestyles – we smoke, we are overweight and sometimes even obese and we are not getting our five-a-day recommended amount of fruit and vegetables,” he warned. Bodden had also talked about taking drastic measure to address the problem of many people continuing to smoke in Cayman despite the introduction of a smoking ban in public places and the high taxes on tobacco products. He said that it maybe that Cayman should consider becoming a smoke free environment. (Vote in the CNS poll).

“It is our goal to ensure that this conference is as informative and educational as possible, not only for the medical community, but for the general public as well.  CNCDs are diseases that are often preventable and, because of this, we are encouraging people to take charge of their lives, and learn about how to live a healthy lifestyle.”

He urged delegates not to just sit and listen but to ask questions, interact with others and gain knowledge and ideas that would improve their health

Tower’s Managing Director Lynne Byles said the 2014 conference this year’s event welcomed eight international and two local speakers with four separate workshops with 24 panellists in total. “Each workshop hosted between 35-80 delegates – an impressive turnout,” she said. “While the conference is a forum for education and information sharing, we have always made it our number one goal to include workshops and breakout sessions that result in recommendations and outputs that are presented to government in order that they can include feedback from the community in their planning.”

After last year’s conference Tower polled delegates to ask if they had made any health improvements since attending the 2013 conference. “The conference planning committee were impressed by the number of respondents to the survey who indicated their health and that of their families had been given a boost thanks to them attending last year’s conference.”

In addition to being event managers of the conference, Tower was also a premium sponsor.

“We believe in value of the conference and are proud to be a premium sponsor,” Byles said. “Tower has been at the forefront of healthcare communications in the Cayman Islands for the past years 15 years, working with a wide range of clients in government, industry, professional associations, corporations, non-governmental and non-profit organisations, this sponsorship is an obvious fit for us,” she added.
 

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Two more patients pick up chikungunya locally

| 26/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Public health officials said that they received two more positive results for chikungunya virus, this week, from patient blood samples without travel history from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). Twelve people have now contracted the disease in Cayman from mosquitos biting infected people and transmitting the virus to another person. Meanwhile, officials have also recorded another case of dengue fever in a patient who presented in October pushing up the cases for this year to four. Two of the cases were acquired locally while others were picked up in Honduras.

In total there have been 36 confirmed case of Chikungunya virus in Cayman with 24 being contracted overseas. But blood samples in patients with travel history to endemic areas are no longer being sent for testing as they are being treated as positive. However most of the patients the hospital is seeing who have picked up chikungunya abroad are being infected in Jamaica.

There were 8 suspected cases of chikungunya during the week 18-24 November based on symptoms. Two had travelled to Jamaica, but six reported no travel history.

With the numbers increasing in Jamaica, People are being warned in Cayman to take extra care and earlier this week the MRCU announced its aerial spraying plans. However, the major mosquito air attacks have only limited impact on chikungunya as well as dengue as these diseases are spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which breeds in urban areas in standing water. As a result everyone is urged to control standing water in their yards and to take precautions against being bitten my mosquitos.

Further information can be obtained through www.hsa.ky

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Minister says bold steps needed to deter smokers

| 26/11/2014 | 62 Comments

(CNS): Despite increasing the price of cigarettes and banning smoking from all indoor public places, the health minister said that Caymanians are still smoking hard. As a result, given the serious health implications for smokers, Osbourne Bodden has said it may be time to consider whether the Cayman Islands should become an entirely smoke-free environment. Speaking in the wake of the recent national healthcare conference, the minister said that since the price and the ban has not stopped people, government may have to take“some bold steps” and there may come a time when it will be “completely banned."

This year’s conference focused on chronic non-communicable diseases, which, like the rest of the western world, are a significant problem in Cayman. Smoking is just one of the risk factors that are causing people to die far sooner than they should and to suffer debilitating illness before they die. As well as smoking, Caymanians are increasingly obese and sedentary. People do not eat enough fruit and vegetables and statistics show that alcohol misuse is another major health risk that is making people very ill.

“These risk factors are a leading cause of the death and disability burden in nearly all countries,” he said.  “Unfortunately … from our 2012 Healthy Nation survey, it was clear from the findings that many Caymanians are leading unhealthy lifestyles – we smoke, we are overweight and sometimes even obese and we are not getting our five-a-day recommended amount of fruit and vegetables.”

He said that hypertension, which can cause strokes or heart attacks, is the most common complaint treated at the Cayman Islands Hospital, followed by diabetes. Diseases of the circulatory system are the most common cause of death here in Cayman, the minister explained, followed by cancer, external causes, diseases of the respiratory system and then conditions affecting the endocrine system, as well as nutritional and metabolic diseases.

“Perhaps even more of a cause for concern, the studies highlighted the fact that far too many of our children are overweight or obese,” he warned.

“Based on annual health screenings on children in transition from lower to middle school, a survey found that 22 per cent of our school children are overweight and an additional 15 per cent were deemed at risk of becoming overweight. In addition, among school children, there are indicators of high levels of obesity. Such risk factors within the school population are a predictor for the future development of CNCD’s in the Cayman Islands.”

Pointing out that the trend cannot be allowed to continue, he said the conference was about seeking ways to prevent Cayman's adult and youth populations from developing CNCDs.

“CNCDs are diseases that are often preventable and because of this we are encouraging people to take charge of their lives, and learn about how to live a healthy lifestyle,” he added.

CNS Poll: Should there be a blanket ban on smoking in Cayman?

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Caribbean begins to win HIV/AIDS fight

| 25/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Although the Cayman Island has always had a relatively low rate of people infected and living with HIV, the battle against the virus is also beginning to be won in the region as a whole, even though it once had the second highest infection rates in the world.According to regional health officials, there has been a 49 per cent decline in HIV within the Caribbean and an improved quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS. 90% of pregnant women receive services to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and patients now benefit from enhanced health systems and a scale-up of prevention, treatment, care and support services and access to affordable medicines.

Cayman Islands Health Minister Osbourne Bodden and the medical officer of health both attended the 13th Annual General Meeting of the Pan Caribbean Partnership (PANCAP) Against HIV and AIDS in Guadeloupe earlier this month, where plans to eliminate the virus by 2030 were discussed.

The two-day meeting, which takes place every two years, focused on the topic "Positioning the Partnership for Post 2015". A four-year plan for a regional strategic framework was endorsed and strategies to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment and care were identified.

Minister Bodden said, “The meeting offered an opportunity to share experiences with regional counterparts in order to improve our combined efforts. I am also excited to see the improvement in regional results which indicates that we are in fact making progress towards an AIDS-free Caribbean.” 

Targets to reduce HIV infections by 2020 include the goal that 90 per cent of those with HIV will be aware of their status, 90 per cent of those who are HIV positive will receive affordable healthcare, and 90 per cent of those on treatment will have undetectable viral loads. These objectives are seen as the necessary steps to take toward the goal of ending AIDS by 2030. 

Bodden added that the Cayman’s health ministry was committed to providing whatever support it takes to achieve these targets.

“I was delighted to learn that our prevalence is very low compared to other countries in the region. I commend the Public Health Department, Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Cayman Islands Red Cross for working collaboratively to enable our islands’ residents access to free testing- and I urge the public to continue to take advantage of this opportunity,” he added.

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