St Elizabeth to stage clean-up day on Tuesday
Launtia Cuff, Gleaner Writer
While the parish of St Elizabeth has now reported confirmed cases of the chikungunya virus (chik-V), chairman of the St Elizabeth Parish Council Mayor Everton Fisher, has said he is not going to place much emphasis on the numbers, but the focus will continue to be on ways to eradicate or reduce incidences of the disease in parish.
"Just [Tuesday] we had confirmation from the local health department that there are three reported cases. I am not at a stage where I am going to worry about numbers anymore, because we know for fact that there are many cases across the parish," the mayor told Rural Xpress.
Out of an inter-agency meeting held on Monday, the mayor said that Tuesday, October 21, was decided upon for a parish-wide clean-up.
"We are asking people to buy into it and to see how best we can clean up the environment around us. The parish council stands ready, as usual, to work with the health department to make sure we minimise the spread of chik-V across the parish and we are asking everybody; every agency, every institution that can participate to work along with us in the parish."
The mayor also appealed to owners of vehicles, such as trucks, to volunteer their units to assist with the clean-up exercise.
"The fact is what we get (in terms of monetary assistance) will never be able to cover the clean-up we are looking [at] across the parish. I know our own minister is committed to it and as we go by, more funding will be coming, but for Tuesday, we are asking for volunteerism to be a part or to be the centre of it," Fisher said.
accommodating increased visits
While persons continue to present with chik-V-like symptoms, Dr Glen Day, senior medical officer at the Black River Hospital, said that measures have been put in place to try and accommodate increased visits.
"The number of persons coming in with fever increased about three weeks ago and right now it's about 20 to 30 persons per day. There are other types of viral illnesses like dengue [that] don't come with any joint pain: you have muscle pain, back pain, nausea and vomiting, weakness, dehydration, etc, but chikungunya presents with all of the above. All the viruses start off the same way, but chikungunya goes for the joints. About 70 per cent of the persons who come in now are complaining of joint pain. Over the past week, we have noticed that the numbers are steadily falling off a little and we're hoping that it means that it could be abating.
"We cannot confirm whether people do have the condition unless we have the report of blood tests which have to be sent through our national Public Health Lab all the way to Trinidad to confirm the test - it's unfortunate. A lot of persons who are tested now are waiting several weeks or even months because the entire Caribbean is dependent on this lab," Dr Day explained.
He went on to add that a customer relations officer was now stationed in the waiting area so that patients can be assessed and medical personnel alerted of the serious cases more quickly.
"[In] the waiting area, we have a customer relations officer and there is a good reason: we don't want anybody to be deteriorating. We don't want them to collapse in our Accident and Emergency; nobody must be on the floors; no one must be complaining of pain and is not attended to. We hope and pray that the system will hold out. What is happening [is that] we are becoming more and more overcrowded," he added.
Chairman of the South East Regional Heath Authority, Michael Stewart, said that, at this time, it was important for residents of the parish to look out for persons who have entered the country illegally. He said while there are isolation rooms and monitoring at the official ports of entry, there were no such measures in place when persons enter the island illegally.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Anthony Lewis, zone commander for South St Elizabeth said that in the past six weeks, about 12 illegal immigrants have entered the island.
"Over the last, say about six weeks, we have had quite a number of illegal immigrants coming into our island - I could say easily about a dozen. As recent as Saturday, four Costa Ricans [and] a Nicaraguan were sent (from St Elizabeth) to Kingston to be deported.
"The fact that we are alerted to Ebola ... our country has a history of hosting foreigners and we are a very hospitable country, and my charge right now is to alert the individuals in the parish, and to look out for foreigners coming in, because we never know what we may get. The gun-for-drugs trade is actually encouraging a lot of people to come here and, as such, we never know what can come to our shores because no checks and balance are there when you come in illegally and it's a health concern," DSP Lewis said.