Flu cases increase but no sign of bird strain

| 08/10/2013

(CNS): Although cases of suspected flu surged during September in the Cayman Islands, public health officials say that there is no indication that any of these are the serious strain of H1N1, known as swine flu. Following international reports that some countries are experiencing several cases of H1N1(2009 pandemic strain), Medical Officer of Health, Dr Kiran Kumar, is alerting the public to observe the basic flu preventative measures, including proper hand washing techniques. In the Cayman Islands, an average 85 to 90 cases of flu-like illnesses are reported per week.  

During August 2013, flu cases were averaging about 67 per week, well below the usual rate. Then in the first week of September 2013, this number rose to 111 cases, climbing to 169 in the third week before dropping off to 145 in the fourth week.  “We will continue to monitor our situation,” said Dr Kumar. 

In the months of August and September, seven respiratory samples were tested and no Influenza A or B detected.

Although there are no positive samples thus far, it is anticipated that the flu season will see different strains like Influenza A (H1N1), Influenza A (H3N2), Influenza B, and other respiratory viruses. There is no way to know whether someone is going to get H1N1 or H3N2.

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.  It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

The 2013-2014 Influenza vaccine does include the H1N1and H3N2 strains.  Dr. Kumar noted that, “We are expecting the arrival of approximately 3,000 doses during the week of October 14, 2013, via the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and we will begin to immunize at-risk persons immediately and make it available to everyone  on a first-come-basis as long as supplies last.”

In addition to this, The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad has indicated that there is no bird flu (H1N5) in the Caribbean.  Dr. Kumar also stated that there are adequate supplies of Tamiflu for patients who need it.

Prevent the spread of flu

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze (throw the tissue in the trash after you use it), i.e. Cover, Clean, Contain. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand rub may be used.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick, stay home from work or school until your illness is over.

For more information on the prevention of flu, please contact the Public Health Department on 244-2621.

Related article:

It's Swine Flu (Trinidad Express, 3 October 2013)

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