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Beware fake news and myths about Coronavirus, warn Tourism Health Specialists

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World Health Organization

#MIAMI (February 14, 2020) – Medical specialists reminded the hospitality sector that the Caribbean had only a very small chance of contracting Coronavirus but warned them to be wary of an unprecedented amount of misinformation and fake news circulating about the virus, especially on social media sites.  

Dr. Lisa Indar at a stakeholder meeting in Trinidad & Tobago related to the recent novel Coronavirus outbreak

Dr. Lisa Indar, Deputy Executive Director, Surveillance Disease Prevention and Control at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), speaking during a webinar organized by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), said the risk for the region was “low to moderate” and stressed the Caribbean did not have any reported cases, largely because travelers to the region from affected countries had to take a number of commercial flights before reaching the region.  But, she said “that does not mean we cannot be prepared given the rapidly changing nature of this novel disease. We have had meetings with CMOs (Chief Medical Officers) and ministers of health to ramp up vigilance at our ports of entry.”

Several Caribbean countries have implemented a number of containment strategies to ensure the region is made as safe as possible from the virus and CARPHA was working closely with the private sector organization CHTA and its public sector counterpart the Caribbean Tourism Organization to ensure the hotel and tourism sectors were properly prepared.  

WHO Meeting

On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO), based on the recommendations of the emergency committee (International Health Regulations), declared the 2019 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern which Dr. Stephanie Fletcher-Lartey, resident specialist at CARPHA, said was a call for enhanced global coordination: “Once that has been declared, countries and various international organizations can tap into resources (to support the response to the outbreak).”

Frank Comito, CEO and Director General of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association

The regular flu virus had already killed at least 10,000 people in the United States of America this season and Dr. Indar urged people to take precautions from that disease whose symptoms include heavy coughing, sneezing, fever, and headaches and are similar to those for Coronavirus.

Washing hands regularly, avoiding close contact with people who may have symptoms, staying clear of crowds and seeking immediate medical attention are important precautions.

Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director of CARPHA, echoed her colleague’s warnings about “fake news” poisoning the Caribbean and reported CARPHA was myth-busting by producing videos dealing with a lot of the questions so that everyone understands the issues and can focus on credible sources.  

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Frank Comito, CEO and Director General of CHTA, agreed with Dr. St. John, stating: “We have seen several false reports posted online in recent days alleging contamination at a hotel. This is irresponsible. People making such false accusations should be held liable for their actions. Any such reports should be scrutinized by CARPHA or the local health authorities before one even considers sharing.”

He pointed to a number of informational, reporting and monitoring protocols and procedures which are in place to help the hotel and tourism sector deal with medical emergencies, which have been carefully crafted by CARPHA and other regional health organizations.   

Jamaica Health Minister checks readiness at NMIA -File Photo

Dr. Indar along with Comito urged all of the region’s hotels which are not part of CARPHA’s Tourism Health Information System (THiS), which provides support information and helps to manage early warning procedures, to sign up.

“This is a very important tool which helps us to mitigate the spread of disease, and to protect the safety of residents and guests as well as the reputation of our destinations,” Dr. Indar stressed. 

To register for THiS, visit http://this.carpha.org or https://tinyurl.com/txjo7al.  

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Bahamas News

Statement From Hon. Fred Mitchell, MP Minister of Foreign Affairs On the Passing of Colin Powell

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#TheBahamas, October 18, 2021 – I learned this morning  of the death of Colin Powell, the American general and diplomat. I worked with him as Foreign Minister in my first term, particularly on issues related to Haiti.

Yesterday in the CARICOM meeting, I recalled while discussing Haiti his role in the crisis of that time. I recall his life, times and work as generally thoughtful and considered. He was also an example of Caribbean success in America, one to emulate. He was the son of Jamaican parents. He was an example of success as a Black man in America. I am saddened by his passing.

On behalf of the Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis, the government and people of The Bahamas, and in my own behalf, I extend condolences to the United States of America and his family.

 

 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Commonwealth of The Bahamas

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Bahamas News

CARPHA Team undertakes Assessment of Guyana’s National Surveillance System for Non-communicable Diseases

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October 14, 2021 – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) conducted a technical mission to Guyana from September 22nd – 25th, 2021 to undertake site visits as a part of an ongoing assessment of six (6) Member States’ systems for the national surveillance of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors. This activity was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Guyana through an Agence Française de Développement (AFD) – funded project.

The aim of the assessment s to provide evidence in support of the development of a Regional Surveillance System for NCDs, a priority under the regional health framework Caribbean Cooperation in Health IV (2016-2025).

During the mission, the CARPHA technical team reviewed the capacity of existing surveillance mechanisms in Guyana to collect, analyse and report on the NCDs and risk factor indicators proposed for the regional surveillance system. These indicators were recommended by a multi-stakeholder meeting series convened in 2020 under the AFD project, which reviewed global, regional, and sub-regional mandates, targets and practices in surveillance for the prevention and control of NCDs.

The CARPHA Team along with senior officials from the Ministry of Health conducted visits to two (2) health centres, the National Cancer Registry, Ministry of Health Surveillance, and Statistics Unit.  The results from the overall assessment will be presented to the Ministry of Health Guyana and will also be reviewed alongside results from similar assessments in Anguilla, Aruba, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname to inform the finalisation of the regional surveillance system design through a regional stakeholder meeting.

The regional NCDs surveillance system would facilitate the reporting and availability of data to inform policy development, planning, and tracking of progress towards meeting for targets NCDs at Regional and National levels.

Through funding from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), CARPHA is leading the Region in Strengthening Strategic Intelligence and Partnership Approaches to prevent and control NCDs and Strengthen Regional Health Security in the Caribbean. This project, signed in 2019 with a value of €1,500,000.00, demonstrates the commitment of the Government of France and the French people to supporting the public health priorities of the Caribbean Community through CARPHA.

More information on the Project can be found at: https://www.carpha.org/Projects/Ongoing-Projects/Strengthening-Strategic-Intelligence-and-Partnership-Approaches-To-Prevent-and-Control-NCDs-and-Strengthen-Regional-Health-Security-In-The-Caribbean

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Bahamas News

World Sight Day: Love Your Eyes

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  14 October, 2021.  In the Caribbean, the leading causes of blindness are glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes).  According to the Vision Atlas, 6.2 million persons in the Caribbean were reported to have vision loss, with an estimated 260,000 persons reported to be blind in 2020.

Information gathered from eighteen (18) Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) with a population of 44 million, showed that the crude prevalence of blindness was 0.60%, and the prevalence of all vision loss was 13.20%. Many of the persons affected were females at 52%.

Global statistics reveal that for 2020, a total of 596 million persons had distance vision impairment worldwide, of this number 43 million were blind.  Projections for 2050, indicate that an estimated 885 million persons may be affected by distance vision impairment with 61 million expected to experience  blindness.

CARPHA’s vision for the Caribbean is a region where the health and wellness of the people are promoted and protected from disease, injury and disability, thereby enabling human development in keeping with the belief that the health of the Region is the wealth of the Region.

Although there are no projects that directly address vision impairment, CARPHA in collaboration with its public health partners is implementing initiatives to address risk factors such as unhealthy diets, use of harmful substances and poor physical activities. This in turn, will help reduce the risk of disability due to complications associated with poor blood sugar and blood pressure management.

Efforts to improve the standards of care for diabetes through the implementation of the CARPHA Guidelines on the Management of Diabetes in Primary Care in the Caribbean, and training of health care workers from the CARPHA Member States will also contribute to the prevention of vision impairment and blindness due to diabetes.

Access to eye care services can reduce visual impairment.  CARPHA urges Member States to strengthen health systems to improve eye health services with emphasis on reaching the vulnerable and those most in need.  Governments should commit to integrating eye care into the universal health care system.

World Sight Day is celebrated annually on the second Thursday in October.  The focus of the day is to bring awareness to blindness and vision impairment as a major public health issue and blindness prevention.

The 2021 commemoration observed on 14th October, seeks to encourage persons to think about the ‘importance of their own eye health.’

Our eyes are working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been indoors, in front of our screens, and probably missed our eye test appointments. Now more than ever, we need to protect and prioritize our eyesight. There are simple things you can do for yourself to prevent the development of serious eye issues:

  • Take screen breaks for at least five minutes every hour
  • Spend time outside.  Increased outdoor time can reduce the risk of myopia (near-sightedness)[3]
  • Get an eye test. A complete eye exam can detect eye conditions such as glaucoma before it has an effect on your sight. The earlier an eye condition is identified, the easier it is to treat.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet and engage in physical activity. These are crucial steps in maintaining a healthy weight, controlling obesity, and preventing diseases such as diabetes, all of which can impact eye health.
  • If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes checked every year

Your sight cannot be taken for granted.  It is time to LOVE YOUR EYES!

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