WHO: pandemic imminent

| 30/04/2009

(CNS): The UN’s World Health Organization has said that a pandemic is imminent and has raised the alert over swine flu to level 5 (indicating human-to-human transmission in at least two countries) the highest level of alert since the warning system was introduced in 2005 in response to the avian influenza crisis. Phase 6 means a pandemic is under way.Dr Kiran Kumar confirmed yesterday that during a pandemic we can expect around 25% of the population in Cayman to be affected.  Liquid disinfectant stations are being set up at airports and sea ports in the Cayman Islands.

People are being encourage to manage their personal hygene and to keep their hands clean and to avoid contact with their eyes, nose and mouth.

With oversight by Dr Kiran Kumar and the Ministry of Health, the Cayman Islands has initiated the plan of action outlined in the Influenza Pandemic Contingency Plan, Health Minister Anthony Eden said at a press conference yesterday. Public Health and Health Services Authority have started surveillance for the disease, paying specific attention to cases with a combination of relevant symptoms and travel history to affected areas. He said the Cayman Islands is procuring additional supplies of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, which can prevent serious complications and is best if started within two days of symptoms, and this will arrive on the Islands by this weekend.  The island now has 3000 courses with 10,000 more expected. Additionally, discussions are being held with the UK for extra supplies.

The Department of Agriculture will organize a surveillance program to identify any symptomatic cases in the local pig population. Locally, swine flu has never previously been reported or tested for, but the department has the capability to monitor it.

Dr Kumar corrected inaccurate information printed by the local media about a shortage of swine flu vaccine. No such vaccine currently exist and WHO estimates that it may take 4-6 months before the first batch of vaccines are available to fight the virus.

Posters and pamphlets will be placed and distributed at all of Cayman’s ports of entry and all cruise ship companies are being advised to prevent passengers with respiratory illnesses to disembark. Anyone presenting to A&E with symptoms will be immediately isolated, tested and treated. Medical Director Greg Hoeksema explained that any one suspected of having swine flu will be treated immediately even though it will take 3-5 days to confirm blood samples as they are sent via DHL to Trinidad. He said depending on the severity patients will either be sent home for self isolation or will be kept in the hospital.

Kumar also noted that should the pandemic arrive in Cayman plans are in place to have people working from home as much as possible to try and minimise transmission. All local agencies and stakeholders are now in communication following the plan which is expected to work well the Minister of Health confirmed.

The Miami Herald has reported that 20 possible swine flu cases have been identified in Miami-Dade County, but it could be several days before the test results come back. The cases are considered ”suspect” because the patients have flu symptoms and have traveled to Mexico or other areas where the swine flu has been identified.

According to the Department of Tourism, two cruise ships which originally had itineraries which arrived in Grand Cayman directly after visiting Mexico (where the swine flu outbreak originated) have cancelled their calls to Mexico until further notice. To date, at least five cruise lines have adopted similar policies to temporarily suspend calls to Mexico.

In the past 48 hours, the Cayman Islands has received additional bookings from cruise lines, the DoT has said in a release. The Carnival Inspiration has extended its visits to two-day calls during the month of May 2009 and will stay in port until 6pm (instead of 2pm) on its normal days, go offshore and return the following day at 7am and depart at 3pm. In addition, they will be calling on alternate Saturdays. Other bookings are being made tentatively by various cruise lines. Persons with cruise interests are asked to closely monitor the Port Authority cruise schedules to monitor these developments.

“The swine flu has the potential to seriously interrupt travel and trade around the world. While international analysts disagree about the extent to which this will have an impact on tourism, locally we are taking steps to actively protect our borders while working closely with our business partners to weather this crisis as we have done in the past when facing global threats,” said Tourism Minister Charles Clifford.

Since Monday night (April 27), Public Health has implemented advisories that all ships calling upon Cayman should restrict the disembarkation of passengers and crew who have flu-like symptoms.

In terms of travel by air, DoT notes that theCayman Islands does not have any commercial flights to and from Mexico; however direct flights do operate from countries/states with confirmed cases (Texas, New York, Canada and the UK) and private flights routinely visit from Mexico.

Protocols have been requested from local public health in the event additional vigilance is required and signage is being developed for all Cayman ports of entry. Any procedural change will be handled in accordance with international standards.

The DoT said, “Many travel journalists seem conflicted on whether or not they think the outbreak will actually affect travel demand, however this presents yet another challenge that global tourism is facing and we need to implement measures to mitigate the impact on the Cayman Islands.”

As a preventative measure, front-line staff at the airport and port have been advised to implement everyday actions that can help to prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Additional measures are in place to encourage good hygiene at ports of entry. Liquid disinfectant stations are being set up at airports and sea ports to encourage and remind people to keep their hands clean and to avoid contact with their eyes, nose and mouth.

The National Influenza Pandemic Committee convened its first meeting yesterday, 29 April.

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  1. Twyla M Vargas says:


    Has Any one ever heard about something called  "Colloidal Silver"  how can that assist with Swine flu?

  2. Panic Over? says:

    The latest indications are that swine flu is a fairly mild strain not much worse than ordinary flu.  But it does highlight how exposed we were by secret decisions to cut costs by the Government.  Let’s make sure we don’t get caught short again when it might be different.  Can I suggest we re-cycle the banners for Heroes’ Day and go two years without having to build another statue?  That should pay for it.

  3. Nonnie Mouse says:

    Statistically it is almost certain that swine flu is already here.  And if it isn’t already with all the cruise ships and flights from the US it will be soon (and we are increasing the number of cruise visits because?).  So please take care and be vigilant.


  4. 1st timer says:

    People need to get a few things straight!  ONE – there is no such thing as a vaccine!  TWO – the 25% figure is based on infection rates of past pandemics worldwide…THREE – There is currently NO suspected cases of swine flu here!! People have raced into A and E cos they have felt sick but once questioned it is clear they do not have Swine Flu!  STOP PANICKING everyone…all you can do is do the normal healthy thing of washing hands regularly and cover mouth when coughin etc…things you should already be doing!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Let’s all take a deep breath and wash our hands…a lot… the virus has probably been around for weeks if not months….Think about all the virus from all the different places from all the different people that come here everyday….Don’t waste a day of your life worrying about something that has not happened yet….You might  get hit by a bus tomorrow. What will be will be.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Let’s have each home stock up on steaks, propane for the BBQ and a couple dozen flats of beer, and all stay in our houses for the next couple of weeks watching TV and surfing the net… that’ll show those pesky viruses!

  7. Cover Up? says:

    My concern is that any potential cases will be covered up int he short for fear of the harm it may cause to the almighty tourist dollar.  I notice the lack of update on the suspected case in Cayman as reported on Cayman Net News.

    CNS: It takes 3-5 days for the test to come back. I don’t know when the test was sent – the story was in today’s Net News – but I think it’s a bit early for an update.

  8. Anonymous says:

    To Twyla Vargas,

    The papers have repeatedly reported that there is no vaccination for the swine flu.  The medication arriving on island is an anti-viral NOT a vaccination!

    • Twyla M Vargas says:

      WOW!  THANKS

      That was so nice of you to remind me that there is no vaccination. , only an anti-viral.  Dont know what would I do if I never had people like you.  Thaks blessed.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would like to see the banks and other businesses, including Government buildings,  supermarkets and banks set up  sanitizer stations for people to wipe their hands once they enter the dooors of that entity.  We have to be proactive and can’t wait until the first case is diagnosed before we start doing something tangible to prevent the spread of this virus.

  9. Anonymous says:

    There is an email circulating that has me concerned! Does anyone know if there is any truth to this email??

    Cayman patient tested for swine flu after Mexico trip
    A private local doctor has sent Cayman’s first samples for testing to determine whether or not a local resident contracted swine flu during a recent trip to Mexico……….

    CNS: I’ve cut the rest of it here – you can read the whole thing on Cayman Net News. It justsays someone came back from Mexico feeling unwell (not unusual) and because of the swine flu scare they have been tested for the virus.

  10. noname says:

    I am sick and tierd of hearing about what the Present Government spent on Hero’s Day. Come on Cayman aren’t our Women of Today, Tomorrow, and Yesturday don’t value as much. what is $600,000.00 to spend on the Real Hero’s of This Country. Ms. Annie Hulda  Bodden was a great woman, Ms Sybil Mclaughlin is a Wonderful woman and the list could go on please for god sake stop beating the present government about what has already spent. OUR MOTHERS VALUE MUCH MUCH MUCH MORE THAN THAT. Pls Note: No i’m Not a PPM Supporter but i’m sick and tierd of hearing the same garbage everyday.


    • Anonymous says:

      To the person who questioned the value of $600,000 — sorry you are sick and tired of hearing it, but over ten years that measly amount will tot up to $6 million dollars – not including interest.  Do you have any idea what that could do if we invested that in, let’s say, education?  Scholarships? Care for the elderly?  The terminally ill?

      Let us hnour our people, but do it sensibly and not extravagantly.   Our heroes, by virtue of their concern for their countrymen,would be the first to agree.

      We as Caymanians are going to regret the money we have thoughtlessly wasted.

      And by the way, this has nothing to do with whether the government is PPM or UDP.  It is really the civil servants who make these decisions — and they don’t change with the government.  So this is not about which government is in power — the Cabinet makes the decision to honour our heroes, and the civil servants carry out that decision.  So the civil servants involved carry a huge responsibility to implement policy sensibly and prudently.

      However, the government needs to be aware and to draw the breaks where necessary. 

      And that is just Heroes Day — I am very sure that we can find similar lack of prudence in many areas. 

      We need to take a page out of the book of the richest man in the world — Warren Buffett.  Yes, he is even richer than Bill Gates.  He still lives in the same small, three-bedroom house that he got married in 50 years ago.  He drives his own car, and does not have a driver or a security guard.  He never travels by private jet, although he owns the wolrd largest private jet company.  He does not socialise with high society crowd.  His pastime after he gets home is to make some pop corn and to watch TV. 

      That’s why he is the richest man in the world!


      • Anonymous says:

        I’m the peron who is sick of hearing about $600,000.00 Ok What i’m Trying to Say is That the D___ is Spent already so Why Cry Over Spill Milk. the horse gone threw the gate from January it is now May Like the Old people in Cayman would say Leave Well enough Alone. Same goes for John John And Mark. BYE

  11. Twyla M Vargas says:


    I do not see too many of us getting this medication for the flu.  But I do hope if it arrives here the first persons to get the vaccination will be the infants and school chilldren.  They are the future of tomorrow. 

      Our elderly should be next in line, because they are on their final phase with us and should be cared for through their golden years.

    All others, I guess the only thing to do is stop dieting, eat well to gain good healthy immune system.  Vitamin C  and Lemongrass tea.   LOOK OUT FE YA SELF.   because like a comment read, certain people will go in hiding, and come out day before election and say my hands were tied.   Dont know how some people can be tied up fe every thing.  Blessed.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Anybody know where SARS and the Bird Flu dissapeared to? Those were both supposed to kill us off not that long ago. I’ve been eating British Beef for years and there’s nothing wrong with moooo.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The cost of the anti-viral (tamiflu) which is now being sourced from the UK is $70,000 for 3000 vaccines; which works out to a cost of $23 per vaccine. How is it that the Health Authorities are saying that the cost of 13,250 to 16,250 vaccines would have cost $650,000 i.e $40 -$49 per vaccine if they had stockpiled them in accordance to the plan? Does the cost of drugs (or any other product) go down when the supply is at its greatest?? Assuming the numbers are right; if the 13,250 to 16,250 had been source at the price now being paid ($23) that would have been a cost of $304,750 to $373,750 to be in compliance with the plan of ensuring enough vaccines for 25% of the population.

    The anit-viral has a shelf live of 4 years, so we’re talking about an annual cost of $76,187.50 (for 13,250 vaccines) and $93,437.50 (for 16,250). Health officals need to weigh those cost against the risk of ONE death.


    • Anonymous says:

      Does anyone, including CNS, know if there is a confirmed case in Cayman? I was told that there is a child confirmed with it as of today, but that the authorities are not sure how to address the public?

      CNS – can you find out please? 

    • Anonymous says:

      I wonder if stockpiling a drug is the best approach to planning.  I could be wrong, but from some reports I understood that the plan called for ascertaining avenues of supply which would be activated when needed. 

      It seems to be that may be a better approach, given the potential for drugs to become outdated rather quickly — that is, a better drug may come on the market.  Also, do these drugs have an expiry date?

      I do, however, share the sentiment of the last poster about the cost of Heroes’ Day celebrations, in the context of our declining economy.  I hope that the Government is taking note that we cannot afford this extravagance to the degree that it is staged in the future.  Unfortunately, we tend to spend like there is no tomorrow when the going is good, and then we inevitably regularly find outselves in these economic straits. 

      I hope that the new government is going to adopt a more conservative stance towards how we spend money, and not wait for the economic doldrums to tighten our belts.

      Heroes’ Day is a prime example of how we waste money.  No one is saying that we should not reconigse our heroes and those who contribute to a better Cayman, but we don’t need to spend money so recklessly — for example, we did not need those little giveaways that they had one year: tiny fans that when turned on had lights that spelled out "Heroes Day".  I know how much these things cost, and it was simply unconscionable to spend so extravagantly — not to mention the overseas band that is brought in every year.  Our heroes would be proud of the recognition to our local bands for an event honouring local people.  Quality muscians are out there — let us tap local musical resources and thus honour our local people at an event such as this by allowing them to participate. 

  14. No more heroes says:

    Dr. Kumar’s assessment probably comes from the national pandemic plan from 2007 which suggested such an infection rate, and then went on to recommend stocks of anti-virals to protect 25% of the population (which would probably be nearer 15,000 doses).  Instead the same amount of money was spent on Heroes’ Day this year.

  15. noname says:

    Please everyone, just take all the necessay precautions like keeping your hands clean, try not to get in contact with anyone who has flu like symtoms. Use hand sanitizer and lysol. Keep kitchen and bathroom surfaces clean, door knobs as well and lets ask GOD to mercyful to us all and not let this turn into  a pandemic.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Yeah Noonie Mouse he is going to tell us " we are willing, able and capable but we must seek assistance immediately! and then he is going to lock down in his home till the Election is over When approached in his BIO suit he is going to say his most trust quote "MY HANDS ARE TIED"

  17. Anonymous says:
    I think it is a disgrace that the Government can ignore and dismiss something as basic and essential as a flu vaccine!
    "The 2007 plan was shelved after health officials baulked at the price of the drug."
    With the Millions of dollars carelessly thrown away and misspent, the one thing this island cannot afford to do is skimp on medical supplies, vaccines and it’s peoples health! We all know how viruses spread like wildfire here.
    Well done.

    CNS: There is no vaccine for the swine flu virus. It doesn’t exist yet.
  18. Anonymous says:

    "Dr Kiran Kumar confirmed yesterday that during a pandemic we can expect around 25% of the population in Cayman to be affected."

    How the BEEP did he work that one out? Thats over 10,000 people on this island alone. I hope he has done his home work and isn’t just scare mungering.

  19. Nonnie Mouse says:

    Agenda for the National Influenza Pandemic Committee first meeting:

    Item 1) Ask Minister of Health to report on the implementation of the 2007 Pandemic plan

    Item 2) Panic at response.

    Item 3) Beg the UK to sort us out.

    Item 4) Pray no-one dies because of failure to implement 2007 plan.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Persons from TEXAS and from Southern California should also be monitor Not only person from Mexico as these are the Neighbors nearest to ground zero for this pandemic

    • Anonymous says:

      The World Health Organization defines the relevant phases as follows:

      Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

      Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterized by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way.

      It seems a bit misleading to say that level 6 means that around 25% of Cayman’s population would be affected.