Swine Flu Update
Opening Remarks for Emergency Meeting of the
Cayman Islands National Influenza Pandemic Committee
Hon. Anthony Eden, OBE, JP
Minister of Health and Human Services
Thursday 29th April 2009 at 4:00pm
Hibiscus Conference Room, Health Services Authority
Your Excellency, the Governor Mr. Stuart Jack, CVO
Dr Kiran Kumar, Medical Officer of Health
Other members of the National Influenza Pandemic Committee
- As all of you are aware the World Health Organization alert level for pandemic flu was at Phase 4. I have just been informed that it has now been raised to Phase 5. This means there is sustained human-to-human transmission of the H1N1 virus (swine flu), and the current flu outbreak has taken a "significant step" toward becoming a pandemic.
- The European Union Health Commissioner advised Europeans to avoid nonessential travel both to Mexico and parts of the United States. A similar advisory was issued yesterday by Cayman's Medical Officer for Health Dr Kiran Kumar.
- The World Health Organization has singled out air travel as an easy way that the virus could spread, citing their estimate that up to 500,000 people are on planes at any one time. There is a real possibility that the virus will spread to the Cayman Islands.
- 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. This plan is available on www.CaymanPrepared.ky
- Frequently Asked Questions about swine flu have been featured in full page ads published in local papers on Monday and today. This information is also available on www.CaymanPrepared.ky. (Go to Press Releases on the bottom right of the home page).
- The Public Health Department has been monitoring the situation closely since receiving CAREC/WHO/PAHO notification on Friday, 24 April 2009.
- An operational meeting was held on Monday, 27 April, at which health personnel and representatives from other relevant agencies (Department of Environmental Health, Hazard Management Cayman Islands, Government Information Services & Department of Agriculture) discussed the situation.
- The Ministry of Health and Public Health officials met with the Ministry of Tourism, Department of Tourism, Immigration, Customs, the Airports Authority, Cayman Airways and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, representatives yesterday, Tuesday, 28 April, to discuss and agree the way forward.
- As Minister for Health and Chairman of the Cayman Islands National Influenza Pandemic Taskforce, I received an update this afternoon on our surveillance efforts, the level of preparedness to prevent and treat swine flu, if and when this virus spreads to the Cayman Islands.
- 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.
- Laboratory tests will be done through CAREC in Trinidad - it takes 3-5 days from the collection of samples to return of results. However, treatment of flu symptoms will commence immediately.
- 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.
- Health personnel will continue to meet in different operational groups to fine tune local surveillance for swine flu, and manage cases, should they occur.
- Healthcare workers have been briefed and have access to Frequently Asked Questions to assist the public.
- Public Health and the Health Services Authority is procuring additional supplies of Tamiflu which will arrive on the Islands by this weekend. Additionally, discussions are being held with the UK for extra supplies.
- An advisory has been issued to cruise lines, advising that persons with respiratory symptoms should not be allowed to disembark.
In his remarks on the current status of swine flu, I will ask Dr Kumar to correct the inaccurate information printed by the local media about a shortage of swine flu vaccine, as no such vaccine currently exist.
Oseltamivir is a flu treatment and prevention drug marketed as Tamiflu. It is indicated for the treatment and prevention of infections due to influenza A and B virus in people at least one year of age. It is not a vaccine for swine flu.
Swine Flu Vaccine:
None currently exists. The WHO estimates that it may take 4-6 months before the first batch of vaccines are available to fight the virus.
Swine Flu Treatment:
It can be treated by using antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight the flu by keeping its viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within two days of symptoms).