Now that the majority of Jamaicans have felt the effects of chikungunya, it is high time that the minister of health make a full report to the nation on the impact the viral fever has had on the public health and commercial life of this country and the overall scope of the epidemic.
Figures from the Caribbean indicate about 10,000 confirmed cases and nearly 700,000 suspected cases and 37 deaths from the virus, which is called chik-V for short. As yet, we have had no current tally from Jamaican health officials of how many deaths, if any, can be attributed to complications of chik-V.
It is impatient of debate that Dr Fenton Ferguson and the Ministry of Health failed to adequately prepare the nation to deal with the chik-V first, by not initiating a campaign to keep the disease-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito at bay by attacking breeding sites and also by not preparing health-care officials, health departments, and citizens with information about diagnostic testing protocols and a treatment regimen.
the effects of chik-V
Now scores of individuals can be seen hobbling their way through each day as they continue to feel the effects of chik-V, which is marked by lingering acute joint pains. Indeed, chik-V has unleashed its misery on many people in this country.
Leadership is critical in any crisis. The minister of health's tongue was tied in knots as he tried to respond to the crisis, and the best he could come up with was the wish that he wanted so badly to get chik-V himself. It's the kind of response which clearly exposed the minister as someone who really has no understanding of what was necessary to effectively manage the situation.
Yet chik-V proved to be a wake-up call for Jamaica, as the word Ebola started ringing in people's ear, heralding the arrival of an even more deadly disease in parts of Africa. As Ebola started to stir things up, the minister hurriedly assembled a team to fly to Cuba to get a sense of how a nation effectively prepares for a health crisis. And it seems that some lessons were learnt from our Spanish-speaking neighbour.
no time to slacken our vigilance
Now that the chik-V has done its damage, it's no time to slacken our vigilance. Instead, it should be increased in light of predictions from experts that the deadly Ebola crisis is likely to linger for all of next year.
Despite the fact that the Ebola disease has peaked in some of the worst affected countries, and even with promise of new anti-viral therapies, the outbreak of Ebola is predicted to have a long and bumpy tail.
More than 7,000 persons, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, have died from the current Ebola outbreak. The fear factor about Ebola is very high in Jamaica, with some health-care professionals publicly expressing their view that fleeing is preferred to containing and treating suspected cases of Ebola.
The question we must ask, therefore, is: Is Dr Ferguson up to the task to provide the leadership to battle Ebola if it reaches our shores?