Increasing rainfall sends Health Ministry on high alert
Pull Quote: “We are currently on top of the situation so far, and we are hoping that we don’t have any outbreak, but at the same time we are preparing for the worst case scenario.”
- Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud
A proactive approach has been engaged by the Ministry of Health in light of recent increasing rainfall as part of its effort to raise awareness about potential risks associated with flood waters.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, at a press briefing yesterday, noted that there are many risk factors to beware of, which are not limited to the dreaded Leptospirosis that had infected and even led to the demise of several persons back in 2005.
In that year, the country was faced with a prolonged period of heavy rainfall, and according to Dr Persaud, the predictions this year suggest that the increasing nature of rainfall will continue for a while.
Incessant rainfall started over the weekend and has been causing inundation in many parts of the country, particular Regions Six, Five, Four and Three. However, Dr Persaud noted that “the good news from the Ministry of Agriculture is that there has been improvement in drainage and the accumulation has not been extensive…nevertheless we know that the coast of Guyana is low-lying, and in most places where the population is heaviest they are below sea level, and the challenge also exists with the tide and draining the land.”
The Chief Medical Officer noted that as a result there are certain health risks that will emerge, thus the need for the Ministry to respond in a timely manner.
He disclosed plans to educate the populace of the possible risk factors, even as efforts are made to complement awareness with intervening measures to guard against looming health threats.
“We also at this point are putting the health system on high alert to respond to such risks and we have commenced from this Epidemiology Week, which started on Sunday, to look continuously at the daily information that is generated by our health facilities to look particularly at areas like diarrheal diseases, skin infections, respiratory infections and we have commenced more astute screening of patients who present with, for example, fever syndrome.”
This is essential, Dr Persaud explained, since the Health Ministry remains cognizant of the fact that the threat of Leptospirosis had never left Guyana. He revealed that intermittently, over the last six years or so, the Ministry has reported cases of the disease along the coastal belt, adding that it has remained in an endemic state in many places.
“We particularly want to keep the public informed on this; put measures in place that we can reduce the threat, wherever possible, and also provide whatever medical care is needed for persons infected by these conditions.”
Director of Regional Health Services, Dr Narine Singh, disclosed that within the affected regions, efforts have been made to ensure that adequate medical supplies are available to cater to any health challenge arising from the flood situation. This, he said, has been characterized by the distribution of medical supply kits to help boost their treatment capabilities.
“We are leaving today (yesterday) to go to Region Six and we are looking at Region Five and Four to ensure that all of our health facilities have adequate supplies to deal with things like diarrhea and respiratory infection. We are currently on top of the situation so far, and we are hoping that we don’t have any outbreak, but at the same time we are preparing for the worst case scenario,” Dr Singh noted.
The Ministry’s Health Communication Unit has also been playing a pivotal role in ensuring that persons are furnished with necessary advisories and fliers that serve to inform persons of how to guard against water-borne and vector-borne diseases.
“We want to ensure that as much of the information as possible gets out to the public and this is especially for the adolescent health, because while many adults may know the dangers, many of the young persons do not. For some students and young children the water is fun and they don’t recognize the dangers,” said Dr. Marcia Paltoo, Director of the Ministry’s Adolescent and Young Adult Health and Wellness Unit.
As such, she spoke of the importance of collaborating with the media to ensure that the message is sent out to the public, which extends to the importance of preservation and protection of water sources.
“We are reminding residents of the need to ensure that drinking water is safe for cooking, washing fruits and vegetables, washing utensils, washing hands and even making ice…” Dr Paltoo noted.
It is recommended that persons use bleach for cleaning and sanitizing and that efforts be made to ensure that diarrhea is treated with oral rehydration solution.
However, Dr Paltoo stressed that while precaution is important, persons who become ill with suspected gastroenteritis or diarrheal diseases should seek the attention of health care workers at the closest health facility. Contact can also be made with the Ministry of Health directly by calling telephone numbers 223-7355 or 226-1560.