EDITORIAL: National clean-up a must
THE RISING NUMBER of cases of chikungunya in Barbados must be cause of concern to not only the health authorities, but the general population.
It is not a situation which should be ignored as it could have a serious impact on the country’s well-being.
While official figures suggest that fewer than 50 people have been confirmed with the illness, we must agree with those sentiments made by Shadow Minister of Health, Dr Maria Agard, that the figures will be much higher of those with symptoms of the virus.
The reality is that most sufferers will not seek hospital treatment or even go to the polyclinics, and many watching their budget will also try to treat themselves based on the symptoms.
While chikungunya is usually not fatal, this virus can be overwhelming and it can create unnecessary headaches for us at a time when we don’t want any more disruptions. It can cut economic productivity by causing its sufferers a few days of pain and misery. These will all impact on the cost of controlling the mosquito, cost of treatment, productivity and absenteeism.
Given the panic caused worldwide by coverage of illnesses ranging from Ebola to malaria to tuberculosis, people will be understandably worried about chikungunya, for which there is no antiviral drug or medicine. But since this illness is cured by the immune system in almost all cases, there is no need for alarm.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, already well known to us, and the culprit behind dengue fever, is also responsible here. The current rainy period, while a blessing for the lands and our underground water supply, will also provide the perfect breeding ground for this mosquito. The only solution is eradication and the authorities need a virtual “war room” in operation while combating this problem.
The situation also presents a golden opportunity for a national clean-up programme. Barbados needs such an exercise urgently. From illegal dumping to overgrown lots to abandoned properties and vehicles, the environment must be protected in a tangible way.
While fogging does bring results, this method alone will not provide all the answers.
It is an ideal opportunity for Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe to get into the trenches and deal with an issue with which all Barbadians and visitors can identify: making Barbados a truly beautiful and environmentally friendly small island developing state.
However, it cannot be a state-only initiative, but one which must involve the private sector and more importantly, non-governmental organisations. The welfare of all Barbadians and the preservation of the country’s environment are what matter here.