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THE NETTE EFFECT: Diagnosis not for the faint of heart

Antoinette Connell

THE NETTE EFFECT: Diagnosis not for the faint of heart

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A BUNCH OF US in the office got sick to the stomach recently after a doctor paid us a visit here.

You may feel that this is the reverse to what is supposed to be. After all, any doctor’s visit is expected to make you start feeling better.

I thought so too but that was not the case in this rather unusual house call. Instead we were left feeling queasy and eyeing our co-workers with great suspicion.

It was a wonder that any of us got to eating anything that day after information overload.

Dr Corey Forde, an authority on internal medicine dealing specifically with infectious diseases, was the specially invited guest of THE NATION’S Editorial Department to address the monthly staff meeting.

Most of us, I assumed, to getting expert medical advice without the expense that is associated with a face-to-face encounter with a doctor. We got individual advice but also a look at the larger picture.

Forde proved to be a very convincing guest speaker on explaining the various infectious diseases, how they are transferred and solutions to curb their spread. But, like with all medicines in order for them to work, there is a horrible administering process.

So, it was Forde’s grim task to destroy some of our favourite things such as food, play and work. By the time he was through with us we had a different view of Crop Over, our favourite restaurant and our work colleagues.

For instance, he pointed out the millions of germs just lying around the toilet facilities and the easy way they may be transferred from the toilet bowl handle to the door knob.

His formula is to measure the length of time it takes someone to enter and leave the bathroom. If the time is short, then Forde knows that person could not have done all that was required in the way of proper hand-washing or hand-sanitising.

That one left a lot of people eyeing the nearest bathroom with disgust.

Then the goodly doctor explained the way some other infectious diseases are spread, including the deadly hepatitis C, which is through bodily fluids.

That cast a very dim view of the skimpy costume wearing, gyrating Crop Over revellers. Some my colleagues groaned on hearing that bit of information.

Any mass gathering of sweaty bodies in close contact can spell trouble. Another consideration was mass travelling on buses, planes and trains. Forde explained how easy it would be to pick up some infectious illness when in such confined spaces. It can spark the flame of a devastating impact leaping from a single case in a village to a national catastrophe.

This could relate to travelling on a bus, plane or train.

Caused panic

To illustrate his point, he explained how Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), though tightly controlled when there was an outbreak in Canada in 2001, managed to cause enough of a
panic among travellers to cause its tourism industry to plummet.

He stressed the importance of doing everything possible to head off such a situation since it could prove disastrous for Barbados which is so dependent on tourism. The doctor, you might recalled, was part of a Ministry of Health panel that addressed concerned Barbadians during the Ebola scare last year.

He took the time also to dismiss the notion that chikungunya was airborne. Forde explained that anyone with the virus can travel from home to work. If a mosquito bites them and then someone else immediately, the virus is already spreading.

Anything from AIDS to chik V to SARS, Forde can speak to it.

Obviously this type of information has turned him into something of a germaphobe. And Forde admits that there was a time he entered a fast food place, saw how they were handling the food and how it was laid out, and immediately did an about-turn.

It reminds me of those food handlers who wear gloves and clearly do not understand why. They will wear the gloves, touch everything within grasp and then start to prepare food requests. They treat the gloves as though they are meant only to protect the wearer.

The protection is two-way, so because you are wearing gloves that is not a licence to go around handling everything.

In fact, after wearing the gloves and wiping down the area, workers should change them and
then begin on the serving the food. Thanks, doctor, I can no longer go to a restaurant and eat in peace now.

• Antoinette Connell is a News Editor. Email [email protected]