No yellow fever ban here, says health official
A top health official says Barbados will not be following Jamaica’s lead in banning travellers from Guyana and Trinidad, which have been listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) among countries at risk for yellow fever transmission.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George gave this assurance today after a group of 17 travellers who flew into Jamaica from Trinidad and Panama were unable to produce evidence that they were vaccinated against the virus.
However, while the five passengers who arrived on Caribbean Airlines from the twin-island republic were all sent back home, only four of the 12 who flew in from Panama were refused entry, as the other eight were quarantined.
Barbados TODAY understands that a prominent Barbadian banker, who was among the group from Trinidad, was forced to cut short his travel plans and return home.
In explaining the move, Jamaica’s Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton said Jamaica was taking the threat of the viral disease, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, seriously.
Symptoms include fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue, and according to the WHO, a small proportion of patients who contract the virus develop severe symptoms and approximately half of those die within seven to ten days.
However, George believes that medical authorities in Barbados are on top of the situation and he insists there is no need for a ban at this stage, especially for passengers coming in from “low endemic” areas.
“We don’t have the signs to suggest that we are going to follow Jamaica with respect to any bans on persons travelling to Guyana or Trinidad and Tobago,” the local health official said, pointing out that issues of yellow fever resurfaced as a result of a current outbreak in Central Africa, where the virus is blamed for hundreds of deaths.
“The approach of the Ministry of Health is not to wildly ban persons from entering Barbados, but to work with agencies at the airport – the immigration officers, environmental health officers – who are scrutinizing where people are coming from,” George added.
However, he said based on a perceived higher risk of yellow fever transmission in South America, the authorities here had required proof of vaccine in response to the GOL airline service to Barbados.
And while Barbados had not yet arrived at that point of concern with respect to Caribbean Community countries, Goerge is advising Barbadians, particularly those attending the summer Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, that they should be vaccinated ten days prior to travel.