Local patient tests positive for strain of flu

| 19/05/2009

(CNS): The Health Services Authority (HSA) has investigated a total of 17 patients with respiratory infections or flu-like symptoms in the Cayman Islands, eight of which had a travel history with potential exposure to the new H1N1 virus. Sixteen have tested negative and Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar said Public Health is waiting for results from CAREC for a patient that tested positive for Influenza A on Sunday 17 May. He said, however, investigations had revealed that the patient had probably contracted a local strain of seasonal flu from members of her own family before travelling to the US.

He explained that while the patient had travelled to the States  it did not mean the patient has the new H1N1 flu (what was previously known as swine flu) He said that Influenza A comes in different strains with various subtypes.

“The patient had travelled to the US and returned to Cayman on 7 May. Even though the patient does not meet the criteria to be considered a probable case, as an extra precaution, the patient was treated with Tamiflu, put on home isolation and health officials are monitoring the patient and the family’s status daily,” Kumar said.

He also noted that while H1N1 flu is spreading fast, for now the virus is seemingly not causing serious illness in most patients. “Due to the fact that Cayman receives international tourists daily we are closely monitoring the situation. Our goal is to identify any imported cases as early as possible to give us a chance to contain the new H1N1 flu once it reaches our shores,” Dr Kumar added.

As of 19 May the World Health Organization (WHO) had  received reports of 9830 confirmed cases of influenza A-H1N1 – including 79 deaths – from 40 countries. The US has an ongoing flu surveillance system. For instance during the week 3 – 9 May, it tested 12,202 samples. From these 1,454 (11.9%) were positive for Influenza of which 1,286 were Influenza A. Out of these a further 441 (34.3%) tested positive for the new H1N1. The rest of the samples were different types of flu and some could not be sub-typed.

This indicates that testing positive for influenza A does not necessarily mean a patient has the new H1N1 flu. It could be that it is only the seasonal flu. While the confirmed cases are about 5000, the US Centre for Disease Control indicated last week (15 May), that the actual H1N1 flu cases may be about 100,000 at this time in the US.

Specific US statistics to date: The US has reported 5123 cases, including 5 deaths. Ten states have reported more than 100 cases: Arizona (476), California (553), Florida (101), Illinois (696), Wisconsin (613), New York (254), Massachusetts (143),  Michigan (158), Texas (556), and Washington (294). Mexico has reported 3103 confirmed cases and 68 deaths and Canada has reported 496 cases with one death.

Health officials will continue to keep the public informed of any developments. It is important to remember that the best personal defence is good hygiene: Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. If you are sick, stay home from work or school and protect others by avoiding close contact with them. Good health is also important — eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising.



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