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FLYING FISH & COU COU: More questions than answers over Zika


FLYING FISH & COU COU: More questions than answers over Zika

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SOME DOCTORS are questioning whether the actual or possible number of Zika cases that occurred here are actually known.

They told Cou Cou that their query is based on two points the Ministry of Health has not properly addressed. These are: the fact that the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) had placed a limit on the number of Zika samples countries could send for testing each week and the dramatic increase in the number of dengue fever cases.

These medics contend that as CARPHA was taking only five samples per week per country, and maybe only in severe cases where officials needed to make a diagnosis under special circumstances – which was revealed by Antigua and Barbuda’s Chief Medical Officer Rhonda Sealy-Thomas – then local authorities could not know for sure how many Zika infections they actually had.

They said that in the private medical sector, the majority of their colleagues were not putting patients through the trauma of a blood test and awaiting results since the ministry was not really sending the majority of samples. Instead, after patients were examined and diagnosed, they are just being treated. Therefore, the numbers given of 20 confirmed cases of Zika for the first seven months of the year and 540 suspected cases may actually be the tip of the iceberg.

These insiders buttressed their argument by pointing to the more than 700 per cent increase in dengue fever cases as compared to the same period last year with the number of suspected cases – also way up.

They questioned how dengue could be spiking while Zika and Chikungunya seemed under control, yet all three were spread by the same aedes aegypti mosquito.

Early symptoms

 These knowledgeable people told Cou Cou that since the early symptoms for dengue, Zika and Chikungunya were very similar, they suspected that in the absence of testing blood samples, particularly in the private sector, officials here had no way of really knowing which of these illnesses Barbadians actually contracted. So it is entirely possible that some of the reported dengue cases could have been one of the other two.

According to the Barbados Government Information Service, figures released by the Ministry of Health early last month revealed that up to July 23 this year, there were 300 confirmed cases and one death from dengue fever as compared to 41 confirmed, and no deaths for the same period last year. In addition, there were 976 suspected cases this year compared to 214 last year.

As for Chikungunya, from a high of 1 851 suspected cases and 139 confirmed cases in 2014 when the virus surfaced here, there were no confirmed cases and 113 suspected cases between January and July 23 this year. During the same period last year there were 63 suspected cases and four confirmed cases of Chikungunya.

The medics told Cou Cou they suspected the ministry’s approach was due to the international concern about Zika and the impact high numbers could have on the tourism industry. But they warned that with the rains now coming in, Bajans had better be prepared for more mosquitoes and with them the prospect of more cases of dengue, Zika and Chikungunya.