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Advisory on Flu Outbreak

Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kiran Kumar, is alerting the public to an increase in cases of seasonal influenza -- similar to the situation that is presently being widely reported in the United States of America (USA).

In the Cayman Islands, flu season usually runs from October to March, and peaks in December and January.

During the last week of December 2012, cases of flu-like illness reported to Public Health reached 148, and in the first week of January 2013 reached 155. Similar numbers were reported for the same period in the 2009 pandemic, with the number of cases reaching 160-170 per week.

Up to mid-December the 2012 season had been very mild compared to 2011, with an average of 80-90 cases reported per week.

In an average year, 40 cases are reported per week during the summer, and about 80-90 cases per week during the flu season, with cases rising to more than 100 per week during the months of December and January.

With the country in the midst of peak flu season, Dr Kumar advises the public that following these everyday measures can help to prevent illness:

- 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. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand rub may be used.

- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Otherwise, germs may spread.

- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

- If you are sick, stay home from work or school until your illness is over.

All persons 6 months of age and older, should get the flu vaccine. It is especially important for people at high risk for complications from influenza, and those who live with or care for them, to be vaccinated early each year. High-risk persons include the following:

- Young children 6 months to four years of age, but especially those under two years

- Pregnant women

- People 50 years of age and older

- Persons of any age with weakened immune systems and those with chronic medical conditions such as heart, kidney and lung diseases and diabetes

- People living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

Persons who did not yet get their flu vaccine are urged to get their flu shot as soon as possible, as it will still help for the rest of the season. The vaccine is only effective for one season. Dr Kumar emphasizes that the World Health Organization (WHO) is strongly recommending for all pregnant women to be vaccinated. The flu vaccine is being offered for free to all residents and no appointments are necessary.

Persons requiring flu shots can visit any of the following locations:

- The General Practice Clinic at the Cayman Islands Hospital, Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac and all District Health Centres, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

- Little Cayman Clinic. Residents of Little Cayman should contact the clinic to make arrangements.

Side Bar: Cayman Islands Flu Statistics

Year Cases reported

2009 7217

2010 4533

2011 4680

2012 4771

For further information contact: Yvette Cacho