Right Steps & Poui Trees


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#AToZJamaicaChallenge: Z is for Zika (Finally, Inevitably)

Emma ends our month long #AToZChallengeJamaica with a post that could hardly be more topical right now! And it includes her brilliantly apt question: “Is Zika making itself up as it goes along?”

Petchary's Blog

Well, this is the final chapter in the wanderings through the alphabet that my colleagues Dennis Jones, Susan Goffe and I embarked on at the beginning of the month. Sadly and ironically perhaps, it must end with a topic that we have become pretty obsessed with in the last few months. Ms. Goffe should have had this letter though, as she is far more expert on the latest mosquito-borne virus than I am!

How the Zika virus spread to our side of the world. How the Zika virus spread to our side of the world.

Both my husband and I had the Zika virus at roughly the same time. After a few twinges of joint pain (reminiscent of the joys of chikungunya – the last virus we suffered from back in 2014!) we then started to feel slightly feverish and rather tired. Then we had rashes on our arms and legs. After a day, the rashes were gone. And that was…

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#AtoZChallengeJamaica Y is for Your Time Is Up

In his final post in our #AToZChallengeJamaica, Dennis Jones weaves together a number of threads to do with staying or going…

Jamaica: Political Economy

When one considers politicians’ decisions that their ‘race is run’, no clear patterns emerge. Just last week, Britain held a referendum on its EU membership and the PM, who staunchly urged people to ‘remain’, quickly announced his resignation after the people voted to ‘leave’. His opposing leader also urged ‘remain’ and he is now under heavy pressure from members of his party to ‘leave’. The reasons surrounding each set of decisions seem clear.

In Jamaica, our last general election saw the then-governing party lose its sizeable Parliamentary majority and winone seat less than the then-opposition party. But, a majority of one seat is enough. Many think that defeat in the national polls means the head of the party should step down–especially when they’ve chosen to call the vote–not least because he/she was the standard bearer for the mandate and if ‘the buck stops here’, then at least the leader…

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.#AToZChallengeJamaica: X is for X Marks the Spot!

X marks the spot! Right here on the map. Jamaica. 18.1096° N, 77.2975° W. I don’t know what terminology our island’s first inhabitants, the Tainos, used to locate us on the map. The winds, sea currents and stars that would have been part of the guiding elements.

And then, with the arrival of Europeans, Jamaica became located on their maps. A Wikipedia page has pictures of a few of those early maps:

Map of Jamaica - Benedetto Bordone 1528

Benedetto Bordone, 1528

 

Map of Jamaica - Porcacchi 1572

Tomaso Porcacchi, 1572

Old Maps Online also has links to pictures of a variety of maps of Jamaica, such as this one:

Map of Jamaica -  Colin Liddell 1895

Colin Liddell, 1895

By the way, CaribbeanExams.com has a nice, simple series of maps showing how the parishes of Jamaica have changed over the centuries:

Map of Jamaica - CaribbeanExams.com - 21 parishes

And every school child in Jamaica has had the task of learning the names of the parishes and their capitals…

Maps of the World  - Jamaica political map

These days, we can also access Jamaica via satellite maps online, as I did this morning:

NOAA Atlantic vis-animated (1)

And on Google Maps as well:

Google Maps Jamaica

Finally, while you should have no difficulty locating Jamaica on this blank map of the Caribbean, how many other countries could you correctly identify? Click here  to see how well you did.

caribbean_blank


#AToZJamaicaChallenge: W is for Water (Or The Lack Thereof)

Read Emma’s post for”W” in our June blogging challenge. Whether we are paying attention or not, water supply is a vital national & global issue…

Petchary's Blog

Someone reminded me today that just a year ago we were all obsessed with water. Why? Because there was none. The 2015 drought (there was a 2014 one too) was beginning to really bite last June, while temperatures soared – including more warm nights (haven’t we all felt this?)  Many Jamaicans had no water in their pipes, at all. Rivers ran dry. Bush fires burned.

A bush fire threatens this house in Llandewey, western St. Thomas. This photo was taken in May, 2015. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner) A bush fire threatens this house in Llandewey, western St. Thomas. This photo was taken in May, 2015. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

No one is talking much about what local media like to call “the precious commodity” this year, because we have had rain. But we are still worried about water in one sense. We are now storing rainwater (which is good, right?) but in that water breeds wriggling mosquito larvae, which are giving us diseases. It seems we cannot win.

Let us not be in…

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#AtoZChallengeJamaica V is for Voice

Dennis writes today about voice…when people vote & whether politicians listen…Very topical!

Jamaica: Political Economy

The people have spoken! But, how did they speak? Jamaica’s proud of its democratic traditions; voting has been used as the only means to change national government. But, people don’t see voting as their only voice: fewer than 50 percent of the electorate decided to ‘speak’ at our 2016 elections. What does that really mean?

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 7.06.04 AM People have more positions than simple voting can reflect

Britain showed yesterday its own respect for similar traditions, voting in a referendum to leave the EU by a national 52/48 percent  majority.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 6.55.39 AM How the #Brexit vote looked over Britain. The yellers didn’t win.

But, large parts of the UK–Scotland, Northern Ireland and Greater London–voted clearly to remain. Will people in those areas want their different voices to be heard and acted upon?

The #Brexit vote holds other interesting pointers. Younger people (under 45) voted clearly to remain; those older voted clearly to leave–ironically, they…

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.#AToZChallengeJamaica: U is for Upfull

Sometimes it is not easy to remain upfull in Jamaica…positive, encouraged and uplifted. Sometimes it is necessary to pause consciously and intentionally to appreciate the beauty of Jamaica, that can be a counterbalance to things that are harsh, painful and unjust.

Mountains…IMG_6187

Sea…

Old Fort Bay

Sunrise…

2013-11-30 07.08.01

Moonrise…

IMG_1999

Pineapples & pumpkins grown in a backyard…

Poui & euphorbia…

Town & rain…

IMG_1271

Coast road & clear skies…

coast road

Upfull…

IMG_6434

 

 

 


Jamaica: #Zika, Guillain-Barre Syndrome & Information

NNN GBS news report 21-6-16On Tuesday evening (June 21), Nationwide News Network carried a report of a speech given that day by Minister of Health Christopher Tufton, in which  he gave current figures for cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) in Jamaica.  Minister Tufton stated that 30 confirmed cases of GBS have now been identified in Jamaica (this year?) and that the majority of the current cases are Zika-related. (Nationwide’s report is available online & contains audio clips of the Minister.)

This is a significant increase in the number of cases of GBS over the figures given by Minister Tufton during his press conference 3 weeks ago, at which time he also said that none of the GBS cases identified had yet been linked to zika infection. (In an earlier blog post, I dealt with that press conference: Jamaica: Ministry of Health #Zika Virus Update – June 2, 2016.)

Minister Tufton also referred to the cost of treating GBS and the pressure being put on the public health system by the increasing number of cases of GBS.

“A confirmed case of Guillain-Barre costs or is costing in the public health system to treat 1.5 million Jamaican dollars. If we have had 30 cases confirmed to date – do the math – 1.5 million…you are talking about 45 million or so.” – Minister Tufton

I checked the Ministry of Health (MOH) website to see if anything has been posted there about these increased numbers or a copy of the Minister’s speech, but unsurprisingly there is nothing (yet). JIS re AgroGrace products - 6-16And Jamaica Information Service’s (JIS) article about the speech focuses entirely on the launch of the Agro-Grace products (which look interesting), saying nothing about the increased numbers of GBS.

 

So I am grateful to Nationwide for covering the story.

 

Nationwide News’ GBS Discussion

In their discussion about GBS that evening, Nationwide had two guests – Mr Reid Buckley and Dr Karen Webster. Mr Buckley shared his experience with GBS, which he developed in October 2014, following bouts of flu and chikungunya. He detailed being hospitalized with what was initially thought to be a stroke, but because the paralysis affected both sides of his body, the doctor treating him suspected GBS, did an MRI and, with the symptoms getting progressively worse, transferred Mr Buckley to the University Hospital, where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Mr Buckley said that the immunoglobulin needed for his treatment was not readily available in the island at the time and when tracked down at one supplier,  his family was faced with the cost of J$1.6 million for 5 days of treatment.

Mr Buckley spoke about losing his ability to speak, stand, sit, swallow or eat and described the pain he experienced as severe. He said that he immediately began to feel better once the treatment started, but that it took a long time to recover, and that he needed a lot of physiotherapy during that time. He says that he is now 99% recovered, but still occasionally feels some tingling in his toe.

Dr Karen Webster, National Epidemiologist at MOH, said that there is a spectrum of GBS and Mr Buckley seems to have had a severe form of this rare condition. She said that many viral infections can have GBS as a complication; it wasn’t particularly described as being associated with chikungunya, but it has been so described for zika. She noted that with the current outbreak of zika, it is estimated that Jamaica may eventually have between 350- 400 zika-related cases of GBS.

Because of this association, from 2015 the MOH has acted to procure adequate supplies of immunoglobulin needed for treatment of GBS and to increase the numbers of functioning ventilators, which are needed when GBS affects breathing. Dr Webster said that there are adequate supplies of immunoglobulin and the aim is to have 80 treatments in stock at any one time; more would not be kept, as the immunoglobulin has a short shelf life. She said that it is expected that there would be no more than 5 cases of GBS in the peak week of the outbreak. She also said that most of the people who have had GBS this year have responded very well to the immunoglobulin treatment and have recovered quickly. In response to host Cliff Hughes’ question about cost, and whether people who couldn’t afford the expensive treatment would simply have to die, she indicated that the treatment can be accessed without cost, once GBS has been diagnosed.

Concerns have been expressed since the beginning of the year about the capacity of our health facilities to deal with any significant increase in the number of GBS cases that might result from the zika outbreak. As recently as last week, I heard such concerns being expressed again.

GBS tweet Prof Holness 23-6-16

Weekly Epidemiology Bulletin Posted on MOH Website

When I was trying to find out if  the information about the increase in GBS cases was posted on the MOH website, I noticed that the Weekly Epidemiology Bulletin produced by the Epidemiology Unit of the MOH is again being posted on the website. MOH Bulletin linkOn June 16, most of the bulletins for 2016 were posted; none for May or June had been posted as of today. The posting of such material as this, already being produced by the MOH, makes a great deal of sense, and I hope to see more of this kind of routine proactive posting of information.

It was interesting to note that the first two bulletins for 2016 acknowledged the likely outbreak of Zika in Jamaica, with the first bulletin highlighting microcephaly and the second highlighting GBS.

MOH Epidemiology Bulletin EW2 2016

I remain concerned that it is not easy to access some types of information about public health situations on a real time basis  in some central online space. I know that there are problems associated with doing this, but every effort must be made to provide such information in a timely, permanent, accessible format. Access to Information Act timelines are not sufficient in a time of an active outbreak or other developing public health situation. Provision of data 30, 60 or 90 days later may have an impact on people’s ability to make fully informed decisions for themselves, their families or communities.

I again acknowledge the availability of MOH representatives to the media and their willingness to share the up-to-date information they have. Public health information is also being communicated via broadcasts and publication in the press. However, continuing efforts must be made to deal with the gaps where they exist.

More Information About GBS