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Doctor warns Cayman about possible Pandemic Influenza

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  • Doctor warns Cayman about possible Pandemic Influenza

    Doctor warns Cayman about possible Pandemic Influenza

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Dr Ian Hosein

    Visiting physician from Wales, Dr Ian Hosein has sent a message to the Cayman Islands public that it ought to prepare for a pandemic influenza. He warned about the virus during a seminar held at the Family Life Centre on Walkers Road on Tuesday, 13 March.

    According to Dr Hosein, the country ought to start preparing for the potential outbreak since it is unpredictable and at this point, Cayman is vulnerable.

    ?Since it has never existed, we have no immunization because a vaccine has not been developed and it would take about eight months to do so. The drugs would also have to be given within 48 hours of the illness,? Dr Hosein said.

    Influenza is commonly referred to as ?the flu.? It is a viral infection of the lungs. There are two main types of influenza viruses, A and B. Each type includes many different strains that tend to change each year.

    A pandemic influenza is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza ?A? virus appears in humans, causes serious illness and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide.

    Dr Hosein spoke of various types of flu such as the Seasonal Flu, the Avian (Bird) Flu and the Pandemic Flu, including their causes and effects.
    The Seasonal Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The Avian Flu is caused by avian influenza viruses, which occur naturally among birds. According to Dr Hosein, this type of virus kills but it does not spread easily. It would first have to be transmitted from an infected bird to a human being and then spread from human to human.

    He believes that man?s interaction with nature is a key driver for infections.

    ?There are numerous diseases out there that are emerging or re-emerging,? he said.

    He pinpointed a number of infections such as malaria, tuberculosis, leptospirosi that ?we thought we had conquered? and are still existing.

    Three major influenza pandemics swept the globe in the 20th century causing millions of deaths, and no one knows for sure when the next pandemic may strike. However, based on previous pandemics, a future one is expected to have a major impact worldwide. An especially severe influenza pandemic could lead to high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss.

    Dr Hosein recognised the fact that society has changed in terms of improved health care systems, but there is still need for preparation.
    He suggested that businesses collaborate and become more forceful in the process.

    According to the doctor, when the situation arises, there needs to be ?community resilience? - people looking out for one another.

    ?We would need that community spirit because we cannot rely on the Government to take care of everything,? he said.

    Medical Officer of Health, Dr Kiran Kumar, announced at the seminar that efforts are underway to plan for the complex issues and serious impact that a new influenza pandemic could cause in the Cayman Islands.
    Dr Kumar stated that the chance of the Avian Flu infecting Cayman residents is very slim, since the Department of Agriculture has placed restrictions against the importation of live birds.

    ?We have set up Influenza Planning Committees: the Cayman Islands National Influenza Pandemic Committee (CINIPC), which is chaired by His Excellency, the Governor Stuart Jack and the Cayman Islands Pandemic Health Task Force (CIIPHTF), which is chaired by the Minister of Health, Hon Anthony Eden,? he said.

    He added that an influenza contingency plan has already been drafted that will soon be tabled before the Legislative Assembly.

    According to Dr Kumar, the Cayman Islands is collaborating with the global health agencies, such as Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), World Health Organisation (WHO) and Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC), in this period of preparation.

    Dr Kumar however admitted that in the event of a pandemic flu, some hard decisions would have to be made since medication could be limited.

    ?We are currently awaiting a response from the UK to supply a procurement for at least 25 percent of the population,? he said.

    He sent out a challenge to the business representatives to form a consortium to assist in the process.

    He concluded that a sum of 500,000 has been allocated for the cause in the new budget.