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Commentary: High on Ebola, low on chikungunya
Published on October 21, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Derrick Miller

Since the recent outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean, four individuals with close connections who arrived back to into the US from the Caribbean region were hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with the virus. In addition, a few medical center employees communicated that they have seen an increase of patients from the region admitted to their medical facilities. I am not a medical doctor, nor I do I play one on the television; however, based on the recent reports chikungunya has seen a significant up-tick. On the other hand, an impression is being portrayed that it is under control on these shores.

derrick_miller.jpg
Derrick Miller holds a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and finance, an MBA degree in global management and a Master of Science in criminal justice leadership and management. He has been trained as US federal law enforcement officer and been a part of criminal justice field for over 14 years. He can be contacted here: crijm@outlook.com
The leaders must address this issue openly and develop a solid plan before this potential storm, where soon US and other well-traveled countries by the Caribbean people will begin to put the medical drone in the region. The drone concept is geared to destroy anything in its path when launched. However, could you blame the US if they cut travel, and begin to set a high alert and other screening of passengers from the region?

The recent death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola at age 42, who arrived in the US, has created an intensive focus on foreign travelers from many poor and developing countries. Although many believed Thomas Duncan’s death while in US care would inevitably send a statement to others to not come, many people are now wondering what the color of medicine is after two dedicated Caucasian doctors who worked in Liberia contracted the virus and recovered. One of the silent tones in the Caribbean addressing chikungunya, I believe, is not the politics of the virus, which is often seen elsewhere, for the region it is all economics.

Here is why: Most of the region’s economic engine is tourism, and if any indication like what has been taken place in Liberia, it could be worse than the economic collapse in 2008 that left many still sneezing. I begin to wonder if this is a reason reports of this increasing tide seem a bit hushed up to protect the tourism industry while many locals are suffering silently. Any business model during a turbulent time is not only to prepared, but willing to inform about structural problems. This approach not only builds credibility, but also shows a level of leadership that is lacking today on several fronts.

This is not a call for a reduction of travel to and from the region, or high-level screening at airports -- that would be premature at this point. On the other hand, when the local government is slow to educate people, this could be a tornado building. Therefore, questions must be asked. Along these blue waters there lies an undercurrent overflowing its banks at anytime, and the long-term impact could cripple many lives, both medically and economically.

Managing these issues takes compassion and resources. Recently I saw a Facebook picture post of what appeared to be a sick person from the region who became more victimized as he was scorned from an appearance of what is believed to be the symptoms of the Ebola virus. Furthermore, when it is reported that few local doctors are contemplating refusing to report to work in the event of an outbreak due to the lack of medical supplies and other resources, that is troubling.

In today’s society, where billions are being spent on wars and politicians’ re-election, it is hard to fathom that lack of resource and awareness, combined with scorn, can leave many more suffering. I hope elective officials, medical personnel, and CARICOM step up its mandate to educate people and seek help through awareness, because the potential problems such as what is occurring in Liberia and other West African countries, where perception is more dangerous that an actual virus.

These islands are unique and sometimes that can be their own downfall because the uniqueness creates a form of isolation. It further limits collaboration, as all seem to be competing for piece of the visitors’ pie. Therefore, competition mutes concerns, while marketing becomes “them and not us mentality.”

This virus is not just an island thing, or in Third World countries as one of my less informed friends stated, he is going to stop eat chicken, and stop going to places where lots of chicken are found.

Education is key: No, you cannot get it from eating chicken, or visiting places where chicken are in abundance. The name chikungunya derives from a word in Makonde language roughly meaning “that which bends up,” reflecting the physique of a person disabled by the disease. Many reports have noted that it was first identified in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1952

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the first known autochthonous chikungunya cases in the Western Hemisphere occurred in October 2013 on the island of Saint Martin. By March 2014, travelers to other Caribbean islands carried it to: Dominica; the British territories Anguilla and British Virgin Islands; overseas departments of France -- Guadeloupe, Martinique; and the constituent countries of the Netherlands Antilles, as well as other areas such as St Kitts and Nevis; the Dominican Republic; and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

An estimated 3.6 billion persons in 124 countries are at risk worldwide, such as the many who are exposed to dengue fever. Large outbreaks have also been seen Indian Ocean islands, India and South-East Asia, according to the Infection, Genetic, and Evolution Journal. It has also reached Asia and Europe, and North America has seen a few cases recently in Florida.

The National Institute of Health, World Health Organization, Public Health Department, and Infectious Disease, noted that chikungunya is a viral disease that is rarely fatal. It is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The symptoms include high fever and headache with debilitating joint pains, swelling and stiffness of joints, muscular pain, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and rash that can last for several weeks. Normally within four to seven days as reported after been bitten, the symptoms appear. The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on an infected person during the viraemic period. Today, there are no specific antiviral treatments or vaccines available. However, it also has been reported that commonly used medications include ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, paracetamol, and aspirin. Although there have been reported deaths, the number of related deaths are extremely low compared to Ebola; however, one should not discount it as a storm that will pass soon.

These regions have to debunk that only certain medicine can cure this outbreak, while many studies have been reporting there are no known cures at this time for the symptoms. It is extremely important that people take serious preventive measures such as bite-proof long sleeves and trousers. More information can be found published by many health organizations.

It can be extremely difficult to track down all mosquitoes and apply chemical spray on an entire region to reduce concerns.

Today many travelers are still waiting on a concrete government plan on how they are handling the issue in a coordinated effort. If there is one, please post.

Although some awareness has been posted, and the governments seem now to be taking steps to mitigate the potential problem, more needs to be done. Nevertheless, can we all be stratified?

As the region continues to attract visitors, it is also important that these visitors receive a disclaimer of this undercurrent taking place. The leaders must make sure that all proactive measures are taken, and seek help and resources as needed, and stop putting on a good face on this issues with a relaxed attitude. I am still optimistic that all can come together and weather this storm. Moms and I have a ticket ready to land soon to take a break from this upcoming winter.
 
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