NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While the Ministry of Health is trying to get a handle on the recent outbreak of measles in New Providence, health minister Dr. Duane Sands confirmed that his ministry is also addressing a confirmed outbreak of chikungunya.
Dr. Sands revealed to Eyewitness News Online Tuesday that one confirmed case of chikungunya has been recorded in New Providence.
The confirmed case involves a Bahamian female, Dr. Sands said.
Eyewitness News Online received information from an anonymous tipster on Monday night that government was allegedly involved in a cover-up of an outbreak of chikungunya.
The anonymous source based his information on the fact that a female friend told him that she had been assessed at a private healthcare facility and confirmed to have contracted the virus.
Private institutions, by law, are required to report all confirmed health hazards to the Ministry of Health.
The Ministry of Health is then responsible for disseminating the information to the general public.
The infected female was examined and confirmed to have had the virus at least two weeks ago, the source said.
There had been no public announcement about the confirmed case until Tuesday morning.
“Yes, we have had a single case of chikungunya confirmed by laboratory testing,” Dr. Sands admitted yesterday. He gave no reason as to why government had not made the information public prior to now, however, he admonished Bahamians to “go outside [into their yards] and look for containers or old tires with standing water and empty it. The same goes for pools that are no longer being used.
“When we talk about any mosquito-borne illness we are concerned as to whether or not it was imported or homegrown because it then determines whether or not we have infected mosquitoes in the country.
“Unfortunately, this was a home-grown case of chikungunya so the department of environmental health have stepped up their fog campaigns and fog trucks have increased their activity. But, the most important thing we can say is that this requires the partnership of every Bahamian to get outside and check their properties to make sure that they are not breeding mosquitos.”
The confirmation of chikungunya on Tuesday came nearly one week after health officials confirmed a single case of measles in New Providence.
That announcement was made on February 21.
As it now stands, Dr. Sands said health officials are working to ensure that the disease does not spread.
“The [infected] child would have traveled from Paris to London, from London to Nassau, from Nassau to Norman’s Cay, Exuma, from there back to Nassau, got in a cab and went to a doctor’s office and was then hospitalized. So, we have to deal with every potential individual along that route,” Dr. Sands shared.
“Our focus should not be on clamping down the doors [of the country] and saying that nobody from anywhere else that could possibly have measles, should come into The Bahamas; what we want to do get those 15, 000 children that have not been immunized and to ensure that everyone on the frontline; whether a police officer, work at the airport or in the hospitality industry are covered.”
The health minister remains confident that his ministry will be able to keep a handle on both measles and chikungunya.