Cuba the remedy?
As Chikungunya and dengue cases continue to pile up in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean and the threat of the deadly Ebola virus looms, a best practice on how to keep infectious diseases at bay lies right next door.
Cuba’s healthcare system is highly regarded as a model for countries around the world and, even more so, its success at keeping dengue and chikungunya at bay.
Latest figures from the Pan American Health Organization on Chikungunya in the Americas published on Monday show that Cuba has 13 imported cases of Chikungunya. Overall, the region has 13,186 confirmed cases and 784,403 suspected ones.
Barbados has 49 confirmed cases and another 200 unconfirmed.
Figures on the dengue outbreak were not available.
Cuba’s achievements are not solely based on landmark moves by its experts to develop a vaccine to fight the four existing types of dengue, or the fact that its Pedro Kouri Cuban Tropical Medicine Institute has secured special status as a World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Dengue Study and Control. Rather, it’s Cuba’s emphasis on prevention above cure that has been yielding big results.
“Cuba has a strong prevention system . . . prevention is part of our culture,” outgoing Cuban ambassador to Barbados, Lisette Perez Perez told Health Today.
She explains that citizens undergo regular medical checkups, so much so, that Cubans have close relationships with community doctors.
“They have a strong connection with the doctors in their neighbourhoods . . . every Cuban knows a little about medicine, we have very close linkages,” she chuckles.
Those checks are not limited to nationals. From the moment travellers arrive on the island they are first assessed at the airport and during their trip there will be additional checks.
“As soon as you arrive at the airport there is a doctor there to check you . . . . On the second, third day after your arrival, a doctor will come to the house to check how you feel,
could take your temperature etc, and we are very comfortable with that.”
If there is a confirmed case of dengue or any other viral illness the patient is isolated.
“In cases where people may suffer from dengue or any other [mosquito-borne illness], they have to be under a mosquito net. It is very important. You have to isolate the people and if you don’t put people under the mosquito net, the transmission continues.”
The ambassador suggested that it’s a method the rest of the Caribbean could contemplate given the high incidence of Chikungunya and dengue.
“You have to put people with dengue and Chikungunya inside the mosquito net. We do in Cuba, and this is the only solution. We have a lot of people, but this is our humble experience.”
Cuba also spreads the message of prevention via the media to educate citizens on how to control mosquito breeding.
“The people must be part of prevention,” Perez Perez said.
She noted that there has already been discussions between Bridgetown and Havana on increasing cooperation on health. She said Cuba remained committed to working with Caribbean countries to improve health care in the region.
Meanwhile, the Spanish speaking country is already making its contribution to the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa by dispatching a team of 461 doctors and nurses to treat victims in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
It’s easy to conclude that when it comes to the spread of infectious diseases, increased collaboration with Cuba may just be the remedy.
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