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IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: It’s just a matter of ‘when’

Roy R. Morris

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: It’s just a matter of ‘when’

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In recent days there has been a lot of talk in our neck of the woods about the Ebola virus.

Like people all over the world, Bajans are extremely fearful about what could happen when we record our first case. Note that I did not say “if”.

I have no experience or qualification to come up with any mathematical model for determining probability, but my gut, when it considers the current pace of the spread, the comments by the international health experts that the scale of the problem is still being under-reported, as well as the volume of international airline traffic criss-crossing the globe each day, tells me it’s just a matter of time.

We have no choice but to prepare as best we can. That’s one major reason why I find the public differences between president of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP), Dr Carlos Chase, and the Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John a most healthy thing.

As far as I am concerned, it can serve only to keep those who are responsible for securing the health of Barbadians on their toes. We should therefore resist the urge to focus on personalities and concentrate instead on the issues.

In the end, though, for many people this will remain an academic or theoretical subject – until we come face to face with Ebola, or at least until the threat hits a little closer to home.

I arrive at this conclusion because, to me, it was largely an academic discussion, until the time for a business trip I am making to Amsterdam began to draw near. Suddenly, every report about the virus and its effect started to take on new life. I wanted every detail on the case of the man from Texas who is now fighting for his life in a Dallas hospital after health officials first misdiagnosed him.

The report that the experimental drugs that cured the Ebola doctor a few weeks ago were no longer available spurred all kinds of conspiracy theories in my head.

How come it’s no longer available now that a regular Joe Citizen wants it? And how come they have unlimited doses of the untested alternative available? Why would the usually money-hungry pharmaceutical giants not be working helter-skelter on the production of a drug that has been “proven” to work?

I also began to question whether this conference was all that important when it is considered that I will be passing through one of the world’s businest gateways to the African continent – London.

Since we are dealing with a virus with a three-week incubation period and which is flourishing in an environment where border surveillance at best is questionable, how can I be sure I am not exposing myself unnecessarily?

I mean, how many marijuana-laced brownies and visits to the perfectly legal red light district of Amsterdam amount to an acceptable risk for Ebola?

Truth is, I’m still wavering. I’ve got a few days to go before I decide if I am staying right here! After all, the last time I visited the red light district of Amsterdam I was with then Editor-In-Chief Harold Hoyte and I don’t remember being all that excited about it anyhow.

If you want to know about Harold’s reaction back then, though, you will have to ask him.

• Roy Morris is Editor-In-Chief of THE NATION.