Health officials close to identifying ‘Mystery illness’
- “definitely not cholera”, says Ramsammy
Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy has ruled out cholera as the cause for the illness which has claimed the lives of at least six residents of Region One, Barima/Waini.
Ramsammy told Kaieteur News on Saturday that while the Ministry has not yet been able to establish the specific illness, he is confident that it is “definitely not cholera.”
He did indicate though, that the Health Ministry should be able to identify the ‘mystery illness’ this week following examination of laboratory samples.
According to Dr Ramsammy, health teams that have been dispatched to the area are currently closing in on the base of the problem, in the quest to arrest the public health situation.
One resident related that after reading this newspaper’s repeated account of the illness, curious persons were drawn to the area, among them a gentleman who claimed to have been in the Region when there was a cholera outbreak in Mabaruma over a decade ago.
This newspaper was told that the symptoms of the illness currently plaguing the Region include cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea, with the latter appearing “whitish like rice water,” according to a resident.
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Transmission occurs through direct faecal-oral contamination or through ingestion of contaminated water and food. The disease is characterised in its most severe form by a sudden onset of acute watery diarrhoea that can lead to death by severe dehydration and kidney failure. The extremely short incubation period – two hours to five days – enhances the potentially explosive pattern of outbreaks, as the number of cases can rise very quickly. It has been established that about 75 percent of people infected with cholera do not develop any symptoms. However, the pathogens stay in their faeces for seven to 14 days and are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other individuals.
Cholera is an extremely virulent disease that affects both children and adults. Unlike other diarrhoeal diseases, it can kill healthy adults within hours. Individuals with lower immunity, such as malnourished children or people living with HIV, are at greater risk of death if infected by cholera.
Although medical teams have been dispatched to the Region, a resident confided that it was a Medex from Moruca who had really helped to treat about 13 persons who had the symptoms of the illness of recent.
“The Ministry teams they did come…they come and they go but they only staying about half day in one area. So they are not getting to see what really happening…,” the resident said.
But according to Minister Ramsammy, the Ministry’s teams are doing all that is medically possible given the situation. He added that the teams have been travelling to the different communities and have been assessing and addressing the problem.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud and Dr Julian Amsterdam have each led medical teams to Port Kaituma and Kariakou respectively to collect samples of blood, stool and water for testing. The samples, according to Dr Persaud were taken to the National Public Health Reference Laboratory. When this newspaper spoke with the CMO he was not in possession of information to ascertain the result of the samples.
However, as part of the measures to address the illness, Dr Persaud had disclosed that the Health Ministry was forced to review the protocol customarily engaged by the health workers in the affected communities.
He disclosed that the move to review the medical operation within the region was crucial as the health workers there were unaccustomed to managing symptoms at the level that characterise the mystery ailment.
“We are still not sure what the causative agent is. So we are hoping that once we are able to test these samples at the National Public Health Lab we would be able deal a lot better with the situation,” Dr Persaud had asserted.
And though unable to establish the cause of the illness, he had alluded to the condition in sections of the Region whereby human waste is disposed of in a questionable manner. He, as a result, has lamented the fact that the Health Ministry does not have enough Environmental Inspectors to address that problem aggressively.