A member of the Ghanaian nursing contingent, which arrived in Barbados just over a week ago, is now in the secondary isolation unit at Harrison Point, St. Lucy, after testing positive for malaria.
Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, at a press conference today, shared that the male nurse, who tested negative for COVID-19, was being treated for malaria with the appropriate drugs, in accordance with international protocols.
He revealed that while malaria was not endemic to Barbados, the country recorded about two to three imported cases every year, usually out of South America.
“We have managed those cases in the past, and we will manage this case and any further cases that are likely to come about,” he assured.
Infectious Disease Consultant, Dr. Corey Forde, disclosed that the patient was doing “quite well” and his disease was classified as mild.
He explained that the nurse, who presented with abdominal pain, had been started on a drug therapy to which he has responded well. The symptoms of malaria include fever, abdominal pain and vomiting.
Dr. Forde noted that the Barbados medical community had some experience in treating malaria; the most recent cases being a year or two ago with six to eight people out of Guyana being diagnosed, and, before that, there were cases from Nigeria and Kenya.
He further disclosed that there were three more Ghanaians in the isolation facility, who had tested positive for COVID-19, and because they presented quite ill, were being investigated for malaria.
Of these cases, he said: “I think it is quite unlikely, but I think, as a good physician would do, we really should, as we are doing, look into any other possibilities.” He revealed that as of today, all three patients were doing very well.
There was currently another patient within the isolation facility who was quite ill but stable, he revealed. That patient arrived in the island on Saturday from the United States.
Deputy Chief Environmental Health Officer, Ronald Chapman, explained that malaria was spread by the anopheles mosquito, which usually bites an infected person, incubates the parasite in its body and then transmits it to another person.
He said that while people have come into Barbados with the disease, there is no recorded case of transmission here in more than 60 years.
“One of the reasons for that is although we have the anopheles mosquito in Barbados, which is capable of transmitting the disease, that anopheles mosquito is a very poor vector of the disease.”
Reasons for that, he said, included that the mosquito lived primarily in the Graeme Hall Swamp and because it was swamp-dwelling, it did not venture far beyond the swamp, instead feeding on birds, monkeys and any other animal that it found within the swamp area.
He also shared that the mosquito does not fly very fast. “It usually flies at about 1.3 kilometres per hour, which is pretty slow, and because of its specific breeding area it does not fly very far because it then has to fly right back to lay its eggs in that brackish water. And that specific breeding practice of only breeding in the swamp has been one of the things that has kept malaria in Barbados at bay.”
Despite this, Mr. Chapman maintained that the Vector Control Unit still continued to carry out vector control activities in the swamp, with fogging currently being done in that general area.
Surveillance was also being done regularly, with inspectors going to the swamp each week to determine the level of anopheles as well as other mosquitoes which are there.
He noted that because of the crisis two years ago that resulted in sewage going into the Graeme Hall Swamp, the anopheles mosquito population was significantly reduced because of the decrease in the amount of available oxygen in the water, ‘So, the probability of anyone in Barbados spreading malaria is extremely small,” he stated.