Coordinated Response To Cholera Crucial

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Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John (FP)??

"A well-coordinated, timely and effective response to outbreaks of cholera is essential," says this island’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John.

The CMO was addressing the start of the Health Ministry’s Annual Disaster Management Seminar today entitled Training in Cholera Preparedness, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill.

While telling the diverse group of participants from public, private and non-governmental organisations that their presence was indicative of the significance their agencies placed on the issue of cholera preparedness, she said:?? "While it may be impossible to prevent cholera from being introduced into a country, the spread of the disease within an area can be prevented through early detection and confirmation of cases, followed by appropriate treatment."

Dr.?? St. John also pointed out that in recognition of this; a proactive approach had been adopted by the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Pan American

Health Organization (PAHO). And, she added, that the convening of the multi-sectoral seminar, itself, represented part of that effort "to ensure that as many stakeholders as possible are aware of the risks and can identify their role in an effective response."

The main objective of the seminar, which concludes tomorrow, is to heighten awareness of the threat of cholera and to strengthen the capacity of these organisations to respond appropriately.?? In alluding to the strength of her team of

Medical Officers of Health, which functions out of the eight polyclinics across the island, the CMO noted that the conceptualising and planning of such seminars by them, in the past, had "paid tremendous benefits to the Ministry of Health and the public of Barbados".

She stressed: "As some of you may recall it was just after such a seminar in 2009 that the world was alerted of the arrival of the H1N1 virus and the start of the long expected global pandemic. The foresight of the Medical Officers of Health at that time to prepare the health sector and all of our partners meant that we were more prepared to respond effectively to the challenge posed by H1N1!"????????

The seminar on cholera was also described as "timely" for the region against the backdrop of the 2010 outbreak in Haiti, following the devastating earthquake in January of that year.?? Up until that time, Haiti had been free of cholera for almost a century and as a result of its re-introduction in the region, the Caribbean

Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) on October 22, 2010 urged Member States to increase surveillance for possible cholera cases.??????

Cholera is one of the oldest and best known diseases in the world.?? It continues to cause considerable suffering and needless deaths.?? The illness is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera. This disease affects both children and adults. It causes severe watery diarrhoea and vomiting and can quickly lead to severe dehydration and can cause death within 24 hours if left untreated.??

The short incubation period of two hours to five days, enhances the potentially explosive pattern of outbreaks. However, approximately 75 per cent of people infected with the disease do not develop any symptoms.

jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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