By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, May 15, 2023 – There has been a biosecurity breach in a shipment reportedly from the US and now Grand Turk is reporting sightings of raccoons; at least one of the animals, which is an invasive species, has been confirmed dead.
Accounts passed on to Magnetic Media say at least four of the dexterous mammals have been sighted. A photo of one of them, seemingly dead, has been shared with our news team.
The shocking arrival of the raccoons is being attributed to accidental importation by unofficial sources with knowledge of the issue. That source told the team the animals may have been in the country for a few months already after accidentally arriving, likely as stowaways, on a shipment via the port.
Raccoons, while small, are known for their remarkable agility and intelligence but are mischievous creatures and a general nuisance, tampering with farms and garbage cans. But they are much more dangerous than a few overturned bins; raccoons can be extremely aggressive towards other animals, including pets, often biting and injuring them. Arguably their most dangerous feature is their proclivity to rabies.
Rabies is a viral disease that turns those infected ‘rabid’ by attacking the nervous system. Rabies works quickly infecting the brain and causing death in mammals, including human beings. Rabies is fatal in nearly all cases. The US Centers for Disease Control describes the progression of the disease:
“The first symptoms of rabies may be similar to the flu, including weakness or discomfort, fever, or headache. There also may be discomfort, prickling, or an itching sensation at the site of the bite. These symptoms may last for days. Symptoms then progress to cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, and agitation. As the disease progresses, the person may experience delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), and insomnia. The acute period of disease typically ends after 2 to 10 days. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive.”
Most countries in the Caribbean do not have rabies issues having eliminated the disease; the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) says only four countries continue to report cases of canine rabies: Bolivia, Guatemala, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Rabies is one of the reasons that many Caribbean countries have strict laws against importing pets from North America where the disease is prevalent in raccoons, skunks and bats. It is easily passed on to dogs especially through bites.
Thankfully human cases of the disease are very rare and preventable with vaccination. In addition, the animals do not breed quickly. We have reached out to the government to find out about the breach and were told the Ministry of Agriculture is working on a report on the infestation.
How to protect against HIV
#TurksandCaicos, February 15, 2024 – HIV/AIDS has killed more than 40 million people globally since it first appeared in the human population in 1959 according to the World Health Organization WHO and even though there are effective treatments there is no cure making prevention practices a top priority for vulnerable groups.
In recent months claims have emerged of rising cases locally creating concern in some Turks and Caicos residents. The Ministry of Health has remained silent on the issue and has not published relevant statistics despite repeated queries from Magnetic Media.
Given the continued presence of the virus, individuals are still at risk from infection. In fact the WHO says in 2022, when 630,000 people died from HIV-related causes and 1.3 million people acquired HIV.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus behind AIDS, the most advanced form of HIV.
The virus spreads through the body fluids of an infected person, including blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal fluids. It is not spread by kisses, hugs or sharing food.
With this in mind there are several steps that residents can take to protect themselves including
- Using condoms during sex
- Limiting sexual partners
- Being tested regularly
- avoiding sharing needles, syringes and other injecting equipment
- Using personal protective gear when dealing with bodily fluids
Vulnerable populations can be administered Pre Exposure Prophylaxis which work to prevent infection and Post Exposure Prophylaxis which can prevent the virus from taking hold.
An HIV diagnosis is not a death sentence. In 2024 HIV can be treated and prevented with antiretroviral therapy (ART). These drugs strengthen the immune system which HIV weakens significantly.
Still the WHO encourages residents to take preventative action.
CARPHA: Take Action to Avoid the Harmful Effects of Saharan Dust
February 16, 2024 – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is urging persons to protect themselves against adverse health effects of a Saharan dust plume, which has covered many parts of the Caribbean.
The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) in a Dust Bulletin dated February 9th, 2024 stated, “it is highly likely that particulate matter levels will be above the 24-hour outdoor air quality guidelines” as established by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Dr Joy St John, Executive Director, CARPHA, explained “Saharan dust worsens air quality and increases the levels of particulate matter in the air. This can be hazardous, especially to small children, older adults and people with underlying lung conditions and chronic cardiopulmonary diseases”. Dr St John added, “Saharan dust can also worsen the health symptoms of those who suffer from asthma, allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)”.
In light of the poor air quality levels, CARPHA is encouraging persons to take steps to avoid the harmful effects of Saharan dust. These include:
- Stay indoors as much as possible and when outdoors, wear a dust mask (eg. KN95)
- Utilise a HEPA filter indoors to purify air in individual rooms
- Persons who use medications for pulmonary conditions should carry them at all times and use as prescribed
- At the first sign of difficulty while breathing, seek professional medical advice immediately
- For less severe symptoms, standard allergy medications such as antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays may alleviate symptoms
For more information, please see excerpts from the attached CIMH Dust Bulletin.
The Department of Behavioural Health Services Offers Strategies on Managing Emotional Distress Due to Gun Violence
Exposure to gun violence can have a tremendous impact on a persons’ mental health. Whether you are directly involved in an incident of gun violence, a witness to a shooting, or simply hear about the events on the news, you too can become traumatized or develop symptoms of a mental health disorder.
With horrifying stories of gun violence flooding news headlines around the country, a lot of persons are feeling shocked, fearful, and deeply unsafe. It is therefore important that we keep mental health at the forefront of our conversations about crime due to its impact on our mental wellbeing.
The Department of Behavioral Health Services wishes to advise persons who have been exposed to gun violence to be aware the following symptoms and to reach out for help if you need to:
Following a traumatic event, your body can enter a state of hypervigilance and anxiety, with symptoms such as: chest tightness, dizziness, rapid breathing, cold sweats, trembling, and aches and pains. Other physical symptoms include:
- Unfocused thoughts
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
Emotional symptoms of trauma can encompass all sorts of feelings, ranging from numbness to despair to fury. You may also feel:
- Persistent fear
Symptoms specifically affecting children
The trauma surrounding shootings can have harmful effects on developing minds. Children do not necessarily have to see the violence with their own eyes. Just hearing about it through the media can shatter a child’s sense of safety and affect their mental health.
There is research evidence to support the claim that exposure to gun violence is associated with:
- Panic attacks
- Suicidal ideation
- Learning difficulties
Although this can all seem overwhelming, you do not have to feel helpless. While reducing gun violence requires a community effort, there are plenty of steps you can take to protect your mental health after traumatic events unfold. You can help yourself, your children and other loved ones cope with the stress and difficult emotions in the aftermath of violence.
Tip #1 Acknowledge difficult feelings
- Be patient with yourself
- Connect with your emotions
- Find healthy ways to express your feelings
Tip #2 Empower yourself
- Learn about the problem
- Find ways to get involved in helping others
Tip #3 Connect with others
- Engage in positive social interactions
- Connect with other survivors
- Enjoy lighthearted outings
Tip # 4 Manage stress
- Explore relaxation techniques
- Reduce exposure to violent media
- Make time for what you enjoy
The Department of Behavioural Health Services is encouraging all persons to take special care of their mental health and to reach out to a mental health professional if your need further assistance.
For more information on gun violence and supporting your mental health, contact the Department of Behavioural Health Services on the following numbers:
– 338-3613 Grand Turk
– 338-3616- Providenciales
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