Monday, November 26, 2012

Santiago de Cuba: Epidemiological Crisis or Child's Play

Santiago de Cuba: Epidemiological Crisis or Child's Play
November 25, 2012
Janis Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES — This morning, from my window I heard a group of young
children playing on the sidewalk shouting "cholera's goin' 'round,
cholera's goin' 'round… I'm gonna inject you. Better wash your hands."

Of course those kids have no real idea of the seriousness of the
situation, for them it's just a game. They're only imitating what they
see and hear every day. They reproduce in their antics the words they
hear from grown-ups in their homes and at school.

They also represent what is taking place at the entryways of all public
establishments, where it's mandatory for people to wash their hands with
soap and water, then with bleach, and finally wipe their feet on a mat
soaked in chlorine or formaldehyde.

What has actually been happening is that for three weeks, in the city of
Santiago de Cuba and those towns closest to it, public health security
measures have intensified to deal with outbreaks of the diseases
suffered in these communities.

The strange thing is that officially no statements have been made by
medical or health care authorities or others involved with this matter.

Notwithstanding, access to all public places (schools. offices,
warehouses, markets, shops, candy stores, clinics, etc.) all require
people to go through that obligatory ritual of washing their hands with
soap and chlorinated water, and then wiping their feet on a mat.

The same applies to the terminals when leaving or returning through
various means of transport. In addition, streets and houses are being
fumigated while an army of medical students are going from house to
house almost daily asking if anyone has experienced fever, vomiting or

Public speculation is increasing as people talk about alarming numbers
of cases of cholera, dengue, leptospirosis, swine fever and other
infectious diseases. The truth is that these comments are based on the
number of patients admitted with these diagnoses in many hospital wards
authorized to attend them.

The authorities have prohibited people from raising pigs in their homes,
giving the owners an ultimatum of getting them out of the city or
sacrificing them. Likewise, there are now prohibitions on self-employed
vendors in kiosks from selling light snacks, beverages (including soft
drinks), milkshakes, coffee or anything else containing water.

People's questions, prejudices and speculation are all growing.
Officially, any report on the situation is still being kept in locked
draws, but it's undeniable that Santiago is suffering from an
epidemiological crisis. Some people are saying the city should be
declared in quarantine.

But secrecy is being maintained as usual, and the situation will only be
made public when some foreign media source publishes the death toll.

In the meantime, in the games of innocent children, they shout
"cholera's goin' 'round, cholera's goin' 'round… better wash your hands."

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