TAKE CARE. That must be the message to every resident of this country, given the presence of the dreaded Zika mosquito-borne disease. The real challenge facing Barbados is that there needs to be a united effort to rid the country of the problem – immediately.
At the outset we must acknowledge that this is not a Government issue, but one that involves each and every citizen. It is not possible to be too concerned about the spread of Zika given the dire consequences it can cause to the health and economy of this small island-nation.
Global warming may be at the epicentre of why this disease has spread beyond its natural borders, as some scientists are suggesting, but that is an intellectual argument we can pursue to no real avail at this stage. Rather, it is a call to action and not talk, inertia or bureaucratic red tape.
Barbados should have learnt from the experiences with the chikungunya outbreak two years ago. To this day some victims are still reeling from the impact of that disease. On this occasion the stakes are much higher. And once again we are dealing with the same Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The chance of pregnant women contracting this disease and then delivering deformed babies and the possibility of a decline in tourists arrivals are issues which must be taken very seriously. In light of frequent cross-border travel from affected areas to Barbados, we cannot be too cautious.
The truth is that despite the warnings and public appeals, we have not taken all necessary precautions to avoid mosquito breeding grounds across our landscape. The indiscriminate and illegal dumping taking place islandwide provides strong evidence that the message is not being received.
In the circumstances, residents must not sit back and wait on Government and its agencies to contain this scourge. This is an ideal opportunity for the Constituency Councils, churches, service clubs and the District Emergency Organisations to work alongside the public health inspectors to make door to door searches for mosquito breeding grounds like stagnant pools of water. It is an undertaking which cannot be done Monday to Friday in the old Public Service mode. The quicker we act, the more positive should be our efforts in containing any major Zika outbreak.
The situation must not be allowed to get out of hand and give cause for the Centres for Disease Control in United States to put Barbados on a no-travel list. Neither should we allow this country to reach a situation where, like Brazil, health authorities advise women to avoid getting pregnant if at all possible.
Health officials must be vigilant and make their presence felt in every single community across the island fighting the Zika disease, but they must also take legal action against those who simply refuse to comply and thereby put the entire nation at risk. It is a situation in which common sense and caution must prevail.