#TheCaribbean, November 5, 2021 – Whole genome sequencing (WGS) testing to detect COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) variants will be underway at the CARPHA Medical Microbiology Laboratory (CMML) from Monday 15th November 2021. The process will allow CMML to monitor COVID-19 and track specific mutations of COVID-19 that have been circulating in CARPHA Member States.
This new service will provide a turnaround time of 14 days after receipt of samples by CMML from Member States.
Each virus has its own genomic sequence, characterized by a unique “fingerprint”. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is the most comprehensive method for genetic disease testing and can detect nearly all types of disease-causing genetic variants.
“The whole genome sequencing process will allow the CMML to detect changes that may occur in the COVID-19 virus fingerprint over time and accelerate the delivery of results to Member States. A better understanding of the virus’s genetic makeup could save lives by informing public health and clinical management, as well as support the development of medicines and vaccines to combat the virus,” stated Dr. Lisa Indar, Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control at CARPHA.
As a virus evolves, random changes or mutations occur. These changes can lead to the emergence of a new virus lineage, which is quite common. The genomic sequences of these new lineages will differ and are referred to as variations. Although many variants have little effect on the virus’s ability to propagate or cause disease, some changes can increase transmissibility, or allow the virus to evade natural or vaccine-induced immunity.
As the regional reference laboratory, the CMML continues to conduct tests for suspected COVID-19 cases and provide timely reporting of laboratory results to its Member States. The CMML boasts a turnaround time of 48 hours for PCR test results for Member States.
Dr. St. John the Executive Director stated “CARPHA is pleased and very grateful that our International Development Partner the World Bank supported the expansion of the suite of services that we can offer our Member States in bolstering their fight against COVID-19.”
From December 2020 until present, CARPHA and the University of the West Indies (UWI) embarked on a joint project to determine the different lineages of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that circulate in the Caribbean. UWI will continue testing samples, and further communication with our Member States will determine how many samples they can accommodate.
The CMML has plans to expand the scope of its gene sequencing services to include laboratory surveillance of other types of viruses and diseases of public health concern.
CARPHA also announced its new service during the virtual 35th Caribbean Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Managers’ Meeting which took place from 3 – 5 November 2021. The meeting was hosted by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Bahamas and Germany Enter Agreement to Facilitate Direct Airlift
#TheBahamas, December 4, 2021 – The governments of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and of the Federal Republic of Germany entered into a technical bilateral Heads of Agreement aimed at fostering closer ties between both countries. A central feature is an Air Traffic Agreement to facilitate direct flights from Germany to The Bahamas, which would in turn facilitate movement of goods and services, ease of direct shipment as opposed to going through a third country, among other things.
The HOA was signed during a ceremony at the Ministry of Works & Utilities on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. The Hon Alfred Sears, who served as Acting Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation, and His Excellency Dr. Stefan Keil, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to The Bahamas signed the agreement. Also present were: Permanent Secretary Reginald Saunders, Ministry of Tourism Investment & Aviation; Luther Smith, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works & Utilities; Bacchus Rolle, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works & Utilities; Melanie Roach, Director of Public Works; and Carl Christian Illing, Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bahamas.
Mr. Sears said it was a pleasure both countries entered into such an agreement, which he deemed would bring together, two peoples.
The Bahamas and Germany formed diplomatic ties in 1974 and have enjoyed successes in commercial enterprise, tourism and family ties as many Bahamians live in Germany.
“This relationship has been growing and this (agreement) represents the ease of travel, business and social interaction between our two countries,” Mr. Sears said, adding that Bahamians consume and use German products namely vehicles, pharmaceuticals and other items.
In other areas, Mr. Sears noted that The Bahamas is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world susceptible to effects of global warming. He thanked Germany for its role in the recent COP26 held in Glasgow, Scotland, during which that country pledged some twenty million Euros for disaster risk reduction initiatives.
He recalled Hurricane Dorian, which struck Abaco and Grand Bahama from September 1-3, 2019 and, as a result, residents in the path experienced storm surges 20 feet high, many lives were lost, clinics, other public buildings and infrastructure were damaged and/or destroyed, and The Bahamas lost a large portion of its GDP.
“The commitment of Germany resonates with us,” Mr. Sears said, “as we rebuild and build the infrastructure stronger.”
The minister shared the possibility of acquiring more vehicles from Germany, targeting more stopover visitors from there with projection of higher spend and enjoyment of more cultural activities. Permanent Secretary Saunders supported this, by confirming that direct air travel is being facilitated through the agreement.
Ambassador Keil too acknowledged the close relationship between both countries, and that the technical agreement will further strengthen those ties.
By Lindsay Thompson
Photo Caption: Photos show Minister Sears and Ambassador Keil during the signing ceremony at the Ministry of Works & Utilities, November 30, 2021.
(BIS Photos/Yontalay Bowe)
Guys, Have 2 Minutes? Here’s How to Check Yourself for Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer is a rare form of cancer for men in The Bahamas. It is highly curable — if you know it’s there!
November 30, 2021 – Men…how often do you perform a self-exam to check yourselves for testicular cancer?
While it’s a relatively rare form of cancer, young men aren’t exempt – in fact, testicular cancer occurs most often in young and middle-aged men. The good news is, it can usually be treated successfully.
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump on your testicle. But that’s not the only sign of this disease.
Men who have testicular cancer may experience several different kinds of symptoms, says oncologist Timothy Gilligan, MD, a Medical Oncologist at Cleveland Clinic who specializes in treating testicular cancer.
Testicular cancer most frequently strikes men younger than age 44, and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for men ages 15 to 34. It is almost always curable if found early, Dr. Gilligan says, and it is usually curable even when at a later stage. So it’s important to know signs and symptoms.
Here, Dr. Gilligan says, are five possible signs of testicular cancer you might not know about:
5 Testicular Cancer Symptoms That Aren’t a Lump – Know what to look for and catch it early
- A feeling of heaviness or pressure in your scrotum.
- Change in testicle size or firmness.Certain types of testicular tumors can reduce testosterone or increase estrogen in the body, which can result in a change in testicle size or firmness.
- Swollen legs.When a tumor spreads to the lymph node, it can constrict blood flow in the veins and result in a blood clot. The clots often occur in the legs, which causes them to swell. You might even experience blood clot symptoms such as pain and difficulty breathing.
- Lower back pain and shortness of breath.These are symptoms of advanced testicular cancer, meaning the cancer has spread to lymph nodes behind your stomach. Shortness of breath also may signal that the cancer has spread to your lungs, which may make it harder for air to move in and out.
- Breast growth or tenderness.In rare cases, hormone changes also can cause breast tenderness or growth of breast tissue. Some tumors can secrete high levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which stimulates breast development.
If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor right away, Dr. Gilligan says. If your physician diagnoses you with epididymitis or orchitis and the symptoms do not resolve quickly with antibiotics, request an ultrasound to evaluate for a testicular tumor.
“While up to 95 percent of men with testicular cancer are cured, it’s important to get care quickly if you’re experiencing symptoms because testicular cancers usually grow fast,” Dr. Gilligan says. “If there is disease, the earlier it is treated, the greater than chance for success.”
Signs of Recovery in East Grand Bahama Habitats Scarred by Hurricane Dorian
#TheBahamas, November 30, 2021 – In the pinelands and mangroves that make East Grand Bahama so distinctly unique, nature is replenishing itself from the massive destruction of Hurricane Dorian. The restoration slowly taking shape is evidence that the death and devastation that the massive storm left behind is giving way to new life, according to biodiversity experts and scientists who recently conducted field assessments.
The biodiversity consultants with the Implementing Land, Water and Ecosystems Management (IWEco) in The Bahamas project have concluded a new phase of field surveys in East Grand Bahama. The team assessed pinelands and wetlands, collecting detailed information on the habitats and the life forms they support for a biodiversity inventory that will be published as part of the project.
“We have yet to see a standing pine tree that remains alive. In different types of pine habitats, however, you’re seeing different rates of recovery, with seedlings beginning to be established and these seedlings are typically anywhere from eight to 12 inches tall, and some we’ve seen are two to three feet tall,” Mark Daniels, biodiversity consultant with BRON Ltd. said.
The biodiversity team spent more than a week conducting point counts, walking transects and vegetation plots to better understand the recovery process of pine and wetland areas in East Grand Bahama since Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
“The external fringes of those mangrove systems remain dead. However, in the more protected interior regions of these mangrove patches you are seeing mangroves returning and those creek systems where you have mangrove habitats that are inland and protected from the full force of the sea, are also recovering and looking very healthy,” Daniels said.
The biodiversity team also saw several species of wetland and forest birds as well as endemics like the Bahama Yellowthroat and Bahama Woodstar as well as pine saplings that are growing in areas where the trees were dead. Information on the wildlife in East Grand Bahama will also be included in the biodiversity inventory that will be made public.
“We are seeing a lot more birds in the area but most of them are winter migrants from North America coming to The Bahamas and their presence increases our avian fauna by over 50 per cent,” said Scott Johnson, biodiversity consultant with BRON Ltd. “What’s also interesting is that some of the highest diversity of birds we are seeing is in patches of coppice areas in East Grand Bahama. These birds are occupying sites that have a variety of plant species that are producing flowers and some fruits so they have food resources.”
Although the Bahama Yellowthroat and Bahama Woodstar have been observed in the area, other pineland species of birds have not been seen since Hurricane Dorian in 2019, he added.
“I fear that they may have been extirpated from the East Grand Bahama area. Until that pineland ecosystem comes back which may allow for new immigration of birds in that area, chances are that we may not see Bahama Warblers, Olive-Capped Warblers, or Cuban Emeralds in that area for a while,” Johnson said.
The IWEco The Bahamas project is part of a larger, regional undertaking for the Caribbean funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). For The Bahamas, the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP), the Forestry Unit, the Ministry of Public Works and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust are the leading partners.
The work that is being done towards creating a biodiversity inventory is pivotal as it will not only benefit the natural environment but involve citizens more closely in sustaining it. East Grand Bahama has a diverse ecosystem in its plant and animal life as well as its habitats. Investigating and gathering a record of all these life forms is a key part of developing the systems and driving the adaptation to make the environment stronger.
“The Biodiversity Inventory conducted under the IWEco project and its respective findings show significant signs of ecosystem regeneration, and therefore signs of hope as it relates to Hurricane Dorian recovery,” said IWEco The Bahamas National Project Coordinator Melissa Ingraham. “The inventory, amongst other project aspects, such as the development of an ecotourism sector and capacity building opportunities will be incorporated into a watershed management plan to sustainably guide resource use and management at a community based level.”
The project aims to develop and implement of integrated systems that support ecosystem health and strengthen national monitoring and evaluation systems. Other goals include policy, legislative and institutional reforms to increase capacity for sustainable natural resource management and deepening the knowledge that is key for effective stakeholder involvement.
Header: Gathering information for the biodiversity inventory from the pineland forest near West Gap Creek.
1st Insert: These dead mangroves at Ridge Creek are among the lingering signs of Hurricane Dorian’s trek across East Grand Bahama.
2nd insert: Members of the IWEco The Bahamas biodiversity team visit the mangroves at Ridge Creek where there are signs of recovery.
Press Release: IWECO
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