Today’s Editorial October 23: Health agencies weren’t forthcoming

We are not alarmists.

But we do have a duty to inform the public when there is a potential health risk facing our country.

We received word from an extremely reliable source a week ago today that there were cases of dengue fever on Grand Cayman.

It is not our policy to print rumour or innuendo based on anonymous sources so we went to the Health Services Authority and Department of Public Health to get our story.

Not only did they deny there were cases of dengue fever, a press release was issued later stating that there were no cases of the fever in the Cayman Islands.

It wasn’t until Thursday night when Leader of the Opposition Mr. McKeeva Bush went on Radio Cayman questioning why the Public Health Department was denying the existence of dengue fever cases here that we learned the truth.

Not only had they told the Leader of Opposition that cases existed, they had been notifying other public agencies, such as the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, that people with the fever were on the island.

What is the point in keeping important health information from the newspaper and ultimately the public?

Are we as a country so concerned about the tourism dollar that we would jeopardise our own population by keeping necessary information from it?

We’ve now learned that the Public Health Department first became aware of a suspected case of dengue fever on 4 October.

We agree with Mr. Bush. We think we were told a fib.

But we’re not sure why.

Thankfully Dr. Kiran Kumar, who was away in Canada, was made aware of what was going on and cleared things up for us.

He confirmed what we already knew.

Other health spokesmen could take a lesson from Dr. Kumar. He has a track record of openness and honesty with the media and the public when it comes to public health matters.

There should be no veil of secrecy when it comes to our public health institutions, especially when the population is potentially in danger.

The fact is that there was someone here with dengue fever and we do have the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries dengue fever, in the Cayman Islands

Once that mosquito bites someone who has the fever, it can pass along the disease to the next person it bites.

The Mosquito Research and Control Unit has stepped up its spraying efforts to rid the country of the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

We need to help them with those efforts by eliminating standing water in our yards where the mosquitoes breed and develop.

Hopefully dengue fever won’t become a problem in the Cayman Islands like it has elsewhere in the region.

But if we are to stop it from being a problem, we have to be aware. And that has to come from the agencies charged with protecting our health.