Whither from these horrible piles of waste?

From behind the mounting piles of garbage, which were visible all across Barbados last week, it is easy to understand why most would have missed the international news reports of a possible cure for dengue fever.

Garbage has been piling up in several communities, including Eden Lodge, St Michael.
Garbage has been piling up in several communities.

Based on the results of a scientific study, published in the journal Science, and carried by Voice Of America News on July 2, researchers in the United States and Singapore are said to be inching closer towards the development of a treatment and cure for the mosquito-borne illness that affects an estimated 400 million people annually.

In experiments with mice, the scientists have discovered in the blood of patients stricken with dengue, a potent antibody that neutralizes dengue Type 2, which is an aggressive form of the virus.

“The virus injects its own genes in the cell to make more of itself and this antibody actually staples the virus closed so it can’t do that injecting of its own genes into cells,” said James Crowe, director of the Vaccine Centre at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Tennessee and co-author of the study.

Crowe said he thought the discovery would lead to the development of a drug to treat all types of dengue, adding that researchers were already in talks with a number of drug companies interested in developing a cure for the deadly virus.

Ironically, all this talk of a cure for dengue is coming at time when Barbados’ disease threat level appears to be at its highest, given the amount of rubbish that has simply been allowed to accumulate across town and about our country since last Wednesday –– on account of what, in our estimation, is an absolutely unnecessary strike.

This is not to say that the unions, who have ordered workers at the state-owned Sanitation Service Authority to remain off the job, do not have a point. On the contrary!

As we have previously cautioned, there simply cannot be one rule for the Medes and another for the Persians in our Public Service!

Furthermore, Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not to ruin lives –– be they the 200 plus unceremoniously dismissed workers at the National Conservation Commission, or the just short of a dozen terminated at age 60, contrary to the spirit and letter of the country’s amended Pensions Act.

Therefore, as a national newspaper, whose primary mandate it is to be the voice of the voiceless in our society, we remain very concerned about the mounting tensions in the country at this present time, especially when they have put our collective health at stake.

And while it is never our wish to politicize any national issue, or seem to be coming down in favour of any one side, on this occasion, we are just as concerned as the Opposition Barbados Labour Party spokeswoman on health Dr Maria Agard that our Government has not acted with urgency and greater determination to bring a resolution to the impasse between itself and the NUPW to an early resolution, to avoid a reversal of the gains made to date in the ongoing dengue fight.

In deed, as Dr Agard pointed out in an interview with Barbados TODAY last week, we have been grappling with a lot more than dengue; and we’ve only recently managed to limit the incidence of transmission of vector-borne diseases such as leptospirosis and chikungunya.

Therefore this strike, if allowed to continue, could easily see the re-emergence of these conditions to the detriment of the country, as Dr Agard has rightly pointed out. Indeed, the continuing protest places further strain on the island’s health care system, especially the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, when it can least afford to carry any more burden.

Ironically, this latest health threat comes on the heels of the Government’s own insistence in recent months that Barbadians should not only better safeguard, but be prepared to pay for their own health.

In a recent appeal to landowners to clear their properties, Minister of Health John Boyce suggested they should not only do so for the sake of their own health, but that of their “neighbours and for the sake of the country”.

“We will continue to enforce the law where it applies, and we will continue to invoice when we clear lots belonging to private landowners,” warned Mr Boyce.

In an unprecedented move last October, one funeral director was found guilty of knowingly breeding mosquitoes on his property and was fined $500, which was payable in two months with the alternative of a month in jail. On that occasion, Michael St Hill was made forcibly aware that the maximum fine he faced under the law was $5 000.

Which begs the question: should not our state be held equally culpable for the mess that is now prevalent on our streets? Or must it always be a case of do as I say, and not as I do, with our Government?

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