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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

Health

Woman dies on Tuesday; 32nd Covid Death for Turks & Caicos

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos has recorded its 32nd death related to COVID-19.

A Ministry of Health press release informed that the individual who was in quarantine in Grand Turk and requested emergency aid on Tuesday; response came from the public health team in Grand Turk.

The person, who we are told is a special needs young woman – was unvaccinated and had underlying medical conditions.

The death rate in the Turks and Caicos of both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons has climbed alarmingly this year.  In the 21-month period from March 2020 when the country recorded its first case to December 2021, there were 26 deaths recorded in the TCI.

In the 19 days since the start of 2022 that number has increased to 32; which means six deaths already in January.

 

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Bahamas News

Cruising should slow down says PAHO

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.

Dr. Ciro Ugarte Director of Health Emergencies at the PAHO was referring to the Bahamas but made sure to note that the advice was highly relevant to many countries in the times of omicron.

“In the context of intense transmission, due to the Omicron variant as we have highlighted several times. It is just logical to suspend or at least limit the cruise ship traffic as an outbreak on board might end up exceedingly high and probably will go beyond the capacity of local health services”

Both the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos are experiencing a massive uptick in cases and several warnings regarding cruise travel have been issued by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Cruising just resumed for many regional countries this past Summer, Turks and Caicos was among the latest to restart on December 13.

A stop to sailing would be devastating to economies, however, ports of call like Grand Turk which are reeling with rocketing case numbers of COVID are urged to consider the suggestion of slowing down on ships by PAHO.

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Health

New Healthy Sail rules to ensure transparency and safety kick in, but not all Cruise Lines are on board

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

January 20, 2022 – The US Centers for Disease Control Cruise Sailing Order expired on Saturday January 15th and it means cruise lines will now be able to choose whether or not they want to participate. This “Healthy Sail” program is a set of guidelines for cruising which the CDC says will provide transparency about COVID management on ships.

Cruise lines which chose to participate in the “healthy sail” voluntary program will be subject to CDC guidelines. Cruise lines which opt out of the program will still have to adhere to masking mandates and report all COVID cases.

However, the ships opting out of the CDC Healthy Sail program, will not be required to make public their testing regimes for crew and passengers.

“There will be a lot of unknowns about what risk mitigation measures are being used on board because they will really be able to set their own protocols for testing of passengers and crew,” said Aimee Treffiletti, CDC representative to USA Today.

Naturally, this raises several questions about whether these ships will be required to make onboard protocols and findings public to ports of call.

Up to Monday, Norwegian, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruise Lines had opted into the program. Noticeably absent from the roll call: Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.

 

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