Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Caribbean not immune to Ebola

Express editorial logo473

Mark Fraser

 When chikungunya, for long a distant peril, finally made its fearsome landfall in Trinidad and Tobago,some 80 people were, in short order, counted  as victims of the mosquito-borne disease, Health Min­ister Fuad Khan reported last week.

Those resilient insects, recognisably part of T&T’s natural environment, could no more be relied upon to spare this country from the latest affliction than could trust in the optimistic superstition that God is somehow a Trini. Against this background, Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean should not imagine ourselves to possess any immunity to the Ebola virus, now rava­ging countries in West Africa.

In near panic, countries around the world have cut off transport and trading ties with Liberia and other African nations stricken by Ebola, with the total number of cases up to 2,615, with 1,427 deaths, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday.

It marks a measure of far-seeing leadership for T&T to bring the Caricom region into a state of prudent readiness against the possibility of Ebola striking here. And it is to the credit of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that she has sought to bring regional health authorities together for common-cause action against the risk of Ebola, on the basis, as she put it, that: “We must not wait for a crisis to act.”

But in keeping with the slow pace at which Caricom moves—

ever since its inception—there has been no public response

to the appeal of the Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, and one can only hope this serious, life-threatening issue has not been put on the back burner, even before it could be acted upon.

Thankfully, there are no direct flights from Africa to the 

Caribbean, but an Ebola-infected person can slip through the checks and measures at international airports with connections to this part of the world. Or that person, unknowingly carrying this very contagious disease, could come into contact with a 

passenger travelling to the West Indies, so there is the distinct possibility that someone can turn up on our shores with the dreaded virus, for which there is no specific treatment.

There should be no further delay in implementing a region-wide action plan, with dedicated health workers being supplied with the necessary equipment to handle any suspected cases and facilities being established to care for those patients.

This is too serious a matter for the normal dilly-dallying that Caricom is renowned for, and those in a position to act should heed the call of PM Persad-Bissessar.