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Opposition Leader has advice for TCIG now that Delta variant landed

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#TurksandCaicos, August 20, 2021

We should Be Concerned about the Delta Variant

After a year and a half, we are still in the pandemic. It is the survival of the fittest between humans and the coronavirus Variants. We are racing to herd immunity, to get more people vaccinated and to get more effective antiviral medications.

We are seeing people dismiss COVID as a just another common cold, and even worse not wearing masks in public places or social distancing. We are also seeing a lack of compliance to the established COVID-19 protocols. We are seeing most safety protocols being abandoned and persons going back to business as usual pre-COVID. We are seeing persons, some who are vaccinated, travelling to cities with high rates of new COVID-19 cases and returning back home to the Turks and Caicos Islands without knowing their COVID status.

With new cases now emerging daily in the TCI the situation could deteriorate very rapidly. We should not allow the flood gates to be wide open. We as a country cannot ease up our efforts at this time, and should not stop fighting until the virus has been defeated. We have to do whatever it takes to battle this unseen enemy.

Therefore, we should be very concerned about the newer, faster transmitting, Delta Variant (B16172). This Variant seems to be the prevalent strain circulating in the TCI at the moment, and has been seen to be two times more infectious than the original G-Variant. Recent reports from the UK indicate that the Delta Variant is infecting younger people more than the original variant, and that the symptoms are different.

With the original variant infected persons would present with symptoms of high fever, muscle pains, cough, severe chest pain etc., but with the Delta Variant, many infected persons are presenting with symptoms of stuffy or running nose, sneezing, sore throat, and mild headaches. Younger people usually show little or no symptoms, and are less likely to get tested, hence not knowing their COVID status and possible spreading the virus more.

Additionally, scientific data sources are now showing that vaccinated persons with a good immune system may also become infected and show little or mild symptoms, and not get tested, and possibly spread the virus to susceptible individuals.

Viruses have one goal, that is to make more copies of themselves (to multiply), and since they can’t do it on their own, they use us (a host). They infect our body cells and use them to make copies of themselves. They replicate themselves many times, making millions of copies of themselves, but eventually it makes a mistake. The mistake is referred to as a mutation, and it changes the instructions for making the virus. That slightly altered virus is a Variant. Mutations in viruses happen all the time, producing new variants. Most of the time these mutations are insignificant or make the virus weaker, and they naturally disappear. But sometimes a series of mutations makes the virus stronger, and gives it an edge over its host. These advantages include giving the viruses the ability to bind to the human cells better, and the ability to enter the cells easier, making the virus more transmissible, allowing it to become the dominant strain in many places around the world.

It is important to remember that mutations are random errors, but the longer a virus is around, and the more people it infects, the more it will change, and the more those changes accumulate, the more chance the virus has to evolve into a more dangerous variant.

The Delta Variant which is the most recent addition to this list of dangerous Variants, is described as a “Double Mutant”, whose mutations seems to make it more transmissible, as it binds to the cell receptors better than other variants, thus blocking those other variants from binding. Its mutations also made it more easy to infect people who have had COVID-19. This means this Variant has a greater change to evade our body’s natural immune response.

Scientific Data has shown that the immune response we get from vaccines are stronger than what we get from a natural response to the virus. Therefore, we would see some persons who previously contracted COVID-19 becoming re-infected, and there would be persons who have taken the vaccine becoming infected with COVID-19 (breakthrough cases). But the difference being seen is that the effect on vaccinated individuals is less severe with possibly no symptoms and are less likely to be admitted to the hospital.

The virus has evolved, and will continue to produce variants, some which may give it an advantage. So if we want to prevent the possibility of a deadlier, and more transmissible strain from developing, we need to stop the Virus.

The Pandemic is not over, even if it feels that way to some of us. The virus has mutated to become more transmissible. Now is not the time for the Turks and Caicos, nor the rest of the world to let its guard down.

The Delta Variant is now presenting as the prevalent variant in a number of countries, and certainly it is now present in the Turks & Caicos. The more we test the more we pick up on silent cases in our communities.

We are now better equipped to respond to the pandemic, and our ability to test is now so much better. Our hospital capacity is now much better to deal with COVID patients, including the availability of oxygen generation.

The New PNP Government must now do its part and insure that our Health Care System stays adequately staffed with the necessary health professionals to care for our hospitalized individuals, and that the right complement of health workers is employed to respond to Outbreaks and Pandemics, that is, having trained staff to perform Surveillance and Monitoring activities, Compliance activities, Testing and research, quarantining, vaccinating, community work, and School Health.

Additionally, the new PNP Government needs to make the tough, and sometimes unpopular decision to ensure that the right policies and guidelines are put in place for the mitigation of further spread of Variants, and for protecting our country and our people.

We should never just focus on what we are seeing today, but must always try to keep a few steps ahead of the virus, by looking at what future advances and abilities are needed. The Government should be looking at what are the technologies and enhancements we could make based on the lessons we have learned, and making the containment, monitoring, and reduction in spread of COVID Variant, and other new viruses much better the next time around.

 

Hon. Edwin A. Astwood

Leader of the Opposition

Caribbean News

CARPHA Calls on Member States to Take Action to Reduce the Spread of Mosquito Borne Diseases

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  5 July 2024.   Mosquito borne diseases continue to pose a serious public health threat to the Caribbean Region.  The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has increased reports of Dengue outbreaks with hospitalisations and deaths in some instances, and recently confirmed cases of Zika, and Chikungunya at its Medical Microbiology Laboratory.

These mosquito-borne diseases can have a major impact on our way of life and our vital tourist industry on which most of our islands depend.

“The Region of the Americas has seen a two-hundred-fold increase in suspected Dengue cases in the first half of 2024, compared to the same period in 2023.  Member States are encouraged to remain vigilant. It is crucial that surveillance, prevention and control measures are boosted to reduce the transmission of arboviruses in the Caribbean,” stated Dr. Lisa Indar, Ad Interim Executive Director at CARPHA.

Dengue is known to cause outbreaks every three to five years.  The Region has seen outbreaks of Chikungunya and Zika virus infections that challenged public health systems in virtually every country in our Region.

Dr. Horace Cox, Assistant Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, and Head Vector Borne Diseases at CARPHA: “These viral infections are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito – a vector known to be endemic to the Region.  With the start of the hurricane season CARPHA is urging its Member States to strengthen integrated vector management strategies in their communities.  These include the elimination of mosquito breeding sites with the aim of reducing the number of mosquito larvae.”

To counter the increase in mosquitoes and potential disease transmission, greater effort should be placed on mosquito control activities in communities, and these should be intensified. CARPHA urges its Member States to review their preparedness and response plans, as well as to continue surveillance, early diagnosis, and timely care of arboviral disease cases, to prevent complications leading to hospitalisation and deaths.

Mr. Rajesh Ragoo, Senior Technical Officer for Vector-Borne Diseases at CARPHA stated “Community involvement is essential in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases. A proactive approach can help to reduce risk and keep communities safe.”

  • Check and remove standing water from around your home.  Ensure your surroundings are clean and free of materials or containers that can accumulate water around your homes and communities.
  • Use of wire-mesh/screens on doors and windows also help in reducing the entry of mosquitoes into homes.
  • Water storage drums and tanks must be properly covered and inspected periodically to ensure that there is no breeding. Roof gutters should also be cleaned to prevent water from pooling.

The mosquitoes that spread dengue are active during the day. Personal preventative measures to minimise mosquito bites are also extremely important. Vulnerable groups such as infants, young children, older adults, and women who are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, must be extra cautious. Long-sleeved clothing and repellents containing DEET, IR3535 or lemon eucalyptus, should be used to protect exposed skin, and must be used in accordance with the instructions on the product label. Confirmed cases of mosquito borne diseases should rest under mosquito nets.

CARPHA remains committed to supporting CARPHA Member States (CMS) in their vector control efforts, including capacity building in integrated vector control strategies.  CMS must continue to strengthen prevention and control measures such as surveillance, diagnosis, as well as timely and adequate treatment of cases, while ensuring that health care services are prepared to facilitate access and proper management of patients with these diseases.

CARPHA has produced campaigns to raise awareness, promote effective prevention, and control measures for mosquito borne diseases.  Information about mosquito borne diseases can be found here:

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Caribbean News

From Awareness to Action: Public Health Matters

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July 5, 2024

 

Caribbean Public Health Day (CPHD) is celebrated annually on July 2nd to raise awareness about public health’s vital role in the lives of Caribbean people, and to highlight the work of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). This day coincides with the anniversary of CARPHA, the region’s sole public health agency, legally established in July 2011 and operationalized in 2013 following the signing of an Intergovernmental Agreement by CARICOM Heads of Government.

This year’s CPHD theme, “From Awareness to Action: Public Health Matters,” brings to light the many daily activities that are influenced by multi-sectoral public health interventions. It also calls for individual actions to support public health efforts as we all contribute to the sustenance and development of Healthy People, Healthy Spaces and a Healthy Caribbean. By participating in local health initiatives, advocating for safe environments, and practicing and promoting healthful behaviours, we can all be champions of public health.

“Public health is more than preventing diseases; it’s a holistic approach to improving the health of people and their communities, including the air we breathe, the food we eat, our lifestyle behaviours and the environment we live in,” said Dr Lisa Indar, Ad Interim Executive Director at CARPHA when asked for comment.

Dr Mark Sami, Director of Corporate Services at CARPHA, added, “This day allows us to reflect on public health’s broader meaning. It is a right for every Caribbean citizen, and CARPHA is dedicated to being the region’s strongest advocate for healthful practices at all levels of society.”

CARPHA advances regional health under the principle that the health of the region is the wealth of the region. By promoting overall health, providing strategic direction and responding to public health priorities, implementing frameworks for disease prevention and control, supporting Member States response to health emergencies and supporting the objectives of the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH), the Agency stands at the forefront of regional development.

We invite everyone to learn more about CARPHA’s role in public health and how individual actions can contribute to a healthier and safer Caribbean. Visit www.carpha.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, X (Twitter), and LinkedIn for more information.

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Health

Increase in COVID-19 Cases Prompts Public Health Alert

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The Ministry of Health and Human Services is issuing an urgent public health advisory following an increase in COVID-19 cases and other respiratory infections within the community and regionally. This alarming rise in cases underscores the importance of continued vigilance and adherence to recommended health guidelines to protect public health. Health officials are closely monitoring the situation and are urging residents to take immediate precautions to prevent further spread of these viruses.

Dr. Astwood, Chief Medical Officer, stated, “We are seeing a concerning rise in acute respiratory infections, including COVID-19, which indicates that these viruses are spreading rapidly in our community. It is imperative that we all take action to protect ourselves and others, especially the most vulnerable individuals within our population.”

To mitigate against the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, the Ministry of Health and Human Services recommends the following actions:

  1. Wear Masks:Wear masks in indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor areas.
  2. Practice Good Hygiene:Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitiser.
  3. Avoid Crowded Places:Limit exposure to crowded and enclosed spaces where ventilation may be poor.
  4. Stay Home if Sick:If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or any respiratory infection, stay home and seek medical advice.
  5. Follow public health guidelines and stay informed through reliable sources.
  6. Get Vaccinated:Ensure that you are up to date with COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.

Both adult and pediatric vaccines for COVID-19 are available at Primary Health Care Clinics across the country. Of note, there is a limited supply of pediatric COVID-19 vaccines available. To get vaccinated, make an appointment by calling Primary Health Care Clinics in:

  • Providenciales- 338-5472
  • Grand Turk: 338-5461
  • North/ Middle Caicos: 247-2126
  • South Caicos: 946-3800

The Ministry of Health and Human Services will continue to provide updates to the general public. For the latest updates and resources, please visit the Ministry of Health and Human Services Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tciministryofhealth/.

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