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FIGHT WITH US - PM urges all Jamaicans to join Gov't in battling health emergencies

Published:Friday | October 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller responding to questions during a press briefing on the local chikungunya outbreak and Jamaica's Ebola preparation at Jamaica House yesterday. Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson looks on. Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator

As Jamaica steps up its response to the chikungunya (chik-V) epidemic and preparations for Ebola with a $500-million budget and a multi-agency approach under the National Health Emergency Plan, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is appealing to all Jamaicans to play an active role in protecting the nation's health.

"The chikungunya outbreak is a serious health emergency, which is causing pain and discomfort for a large number of Jamaicans. It also has many far-reaching implications for our society and economy," the prime minister said yesterday at a media briefing on Jamaica's national response mechanism to the chikungunya outbreak and Ebola preparedness at Jamaica House.

"Our main focus is assisting Jamaicans in our communities to clean up our surroundings and reduce mosquito breeding. This is an urgent national task that must involve everybody. Our responsibility to ourselves, our families and our country requires our personal involvement for the long haul."

She added, "Ridding the country of mosquitoes which spread the chik-V is not a fight which the Government can undertake by itself. While the Government is fully committed to doing everything it can to contain the spread of the virus and protect the population, our citizens also have a responsibility and a role to play."

Simpson Miller urged Jamaicans to do everything possible to reduce the spread of the virus by destroying mosquito-breeding sites.

ADEQUATE MEDICINE

And as countless Jamaicans seek relief from the debilitating effects of chik-V, Simpson Miller is assuring the nation that there is adequate supplies of paracetamol available free of cost at all public health facilities, in addition to the supplies at private retail outlets, "therefore, there is no need for any unreasonable increase in the price of the commodity".

Paracetamol is highly recommended to treat often unbearable pain and severe fever, the main symptoms of chik-V.

Several health centres in Kingston, St Andrew, St Thomas and St Catherine have also extended their opening hours, operating from to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to deal with the flood of chik-V cases.

Parish emergency-operation centres and public-health committees are continuing the islandwide fogging, clean-up and public-education campaigns.

EBOLA WATCH

At the same time, with the global threat of the deadly Ebola virus, Simpson Miller gave assurance that the country has stepped up the pace of systematic planning for the prevention of the disease, as well as effective management should the virus present itself in the island.

"I know that many Jamaicans are understandably very concerned about the global situation involving the Ebola virus, … but we are doing everything to prepare and protect our nation," the prime minister said.

She said among the steps being taken under the multi-agency, comprehensive Ebola Contingency Action Plan is sensitisation and refresher training of first responders, professionals, and key stakeholders for any possible Ebola health emergency. The Government will also acquire the necessary screening equipment for the island's ports of entry as well as quarantine facilities and equipped medical isolation wards which are also being established.

She also assured that the country has adequate supply of personal protection gear equipment for emergency responders, including health-care workers. Arrangements are in place for additional supplies for immediate delivery from international partners, if necessary.

"Jamaicans are being encouraged to take action as part of our personal responsibility in this situation. Avoid travelling to Ebola-affected countries and regions, and truthfully declare your travel history when arriving and departing the island," Simpson Miller said, while commending the entertainers who cancelled planned African tours.

"At the same time, screening and advance passenger-list examination at our ports of entry continue to be major elements of the country's Ebola surveillance system."

Colonel Daniel Pryce said the Jamaica Defence Force has also increased its vigilance of the country's borders to monitor and prevent illegal entry.

Acting permanent secretary in the ministry of health, Dr Kevin Harvey, has been charged with leading the Ebola plan of action.

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com