Doctor warns virus might thrive in municipality
“I say to you, if you have a house in Portmore, sell it!”
These are the words of a medical doctor with a grave concern for residents of Portmore, St Catherine, who believes the impending Zika virus could gradually wipe out the population.
Dr Jephthah Ford said Jamaica is facing a national emergency and that young people living in Portmore should do themselves a favour and leave now if they want to have a future.
“Since the virus last six years in the body, women should not get pregnant. It means that in six years time there will be no primary school (Grade 1) class, and in 11 years, there will be no high school classes, even though ZIKV would have gone. If ZIKV becomes endemic in the population, tourism is going to disappear. If tourism disappears, then the economy will go belly-up,” Ford warned.
As of May 29, the ministry of health said it received 2,166 notifications for Zika, 1,519 of which were classified as suspected cases. The minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, said 21 persons have been confirmed to have contracted Zika, two of whom are pregnant women who will be continuously monitored.
St Catherine and Kingston and St Andrew are the hardest hit
parishes, and Ford said that part of the Government’s emergency response for Portmore should be to immediately complete the construction of canals which were started in the 1970s.
“When Portmore was created, the idea was that they would put in canals that would drain the water into the canals,” he said. “The canals were left incomplete as they don’t lead anywhere. You now have stagnant waters with people throwing garbage and whatever else into the canals right next to the houses. What they have created is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.”
Ford further stated that the concentration of the mosquito species that transmit the virus will have serious implications for pregnant mothers. “What this means is that one in every three babies are born abnormal,” he explained. “If the mosquito bites a woman who is pregnant, she has a one in three chance of an abnormal baby. To go even further, if the mosquito bites a man, the virus goes to his sperm. All children born in Portmore after next month should be screened for abnormalities.”
The medical practitioner is now making an appeal to the relevant authorities. “There are only two solutions. We have to eradicate the Aedes Aegypti mosquito in Portmore. The other thing is that in relation to the canals, we must have a national programme to finish these canals,” he said.
Professor Marvin Reid, former director of the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit (TMRU), at the University of the West Indies, Mona, is of the sentiment that Portmore is a hotspot for ZIKV.
“The issue is that any mosquito-borne illness, once it takes route anywhere near Portmore, will have ample opportunity to propagate and spread,” he said. “This is just because of the environment. The canals, the proximity of houses, the density of people, having the most people per square foot than anywhere else in the Caribbean. Also, the fact that we are now approaching summer and having recent bouts of rain, what will tend to happen is a of the proliferation of mosquitoes.”