Enhancing health care system as chik virus spreads

Barbados is strengthening its public health care system as the the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus (CHIKV) continues to spread throughout the region.

This assurance is coming from Medical Officer of Health Dr Manohar Singh as he addressed medical practitioners yesterday on the final day of a two-day conference organized by the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP)  and the University of the West Indies.

“The local health system is excellent compared to other islands . . . . In Mexico, people are dying from H1N1, and also in other places like the United States and Canada; but there were only two to three deaths in Barbados,” he said.

Singh said environmental health officers were being sent to well known mosquito-breeding sites around the island to carry out fogging . . . and the lack of rain in recent weeks, he stated, had assisted in keeping the situation under control.

In his presentation on chikungunya, titled A Public Health Threat To Barbados, Singh said large outbreaks would likely tax existing health care systems, as well as the public health infrastructure and “cripple some of society’s functioning”.

“Suspected cases should be notified immediately to trigger immediate control actions,” he said.

“Health care facilities may utilize their pandemic influenza plans to manage chik outbreaks; triage systems should be utilized to facilitate the flow of patients during an outbreak,” he explained.

Since the first case of the virus –– transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads the potentially deadly dengue fever –– was discovered in St Martin last December, CHIKV has spread to many Caribbean countries.

Singh recommends the strengthening of the health care system and that workers in the forefront of the fight against the virus be properly protected.

He said political will would also be critical.

Several weeks ago, the head of the Caribbean Public Health Authority declared that the chik virus had reached epidemic proportions in the Caribbean with more than 4,100 probable cases in 14 countries.

Affected states include Anguilla, Aruba, Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Barts, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

And health officials in Florida are now reporting cases of chikungunya in three counties.

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