Editorial for 22 October: Public health and urgency

With dozens of people employed by the
Cayman Islands government and its entities in communications-related government
jobs, one would think that at least the government would be able to communicate
situations of clear and present danger to the public in a timely manner.

Sadly, this isn’t always the case and it
certainly wasn’t recently when it took weeks for the government to inform the
public that Cayman Islands residents had apparently contracted dengue fever
locally.

Most incidents of dengue fever here have
occurred when residents have contracted the disease elsewhere and then
returned. The fact that it has now occurred means the type of mosquitos that
carry the disease – Aedes aegypti – have bitten someone with the disease and
are now transmitting it by subsequently biting healthy residents. Dengue fever
can sometimes be fatal, especially to those who have contracted it previously.
For some reason the government did not see any urgency in informing the public
that dengue fever was being transmitted locally.

We here at the Caymanian Compass became
suspicious on Friday, 12 October when the Ministry of Agriculture issued a
statement saying the Mosquito Research and Control Unit was stepping up its
patrols in West Bay area in an effort to keep Aedes aegypti mosquitoes under
control. However, when we followed up on the reason for their efforts early
last week with the MRCU, we were told the ministry would have to answer the
questions. Questions sent by e-mail to the ministry went unanswered and
telephone calls to the Public Health Department also provided no answers. On
Thursday afternoon, the Public Health Department finally issued a statement on
the subject.

It is simply unacceptable for the
government to lollygag through bloated bureaucracy when there’s a known threat
to public health, especially when all they had to do was answer a journalist’s
questions in a timely manner. The delay put residents’ health at risk and it’s
quite possible more people contracted dengue fever because they didn’t take
increased precautions between the time when the government knew about the
threat and when it got around to telling them about it.

 

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