St. Kitts Nevis in Heightened State for Cholera

According to news reports, the number of persons who have died in Haiti as a result of the outbreak exceeds 1,000 and more than 1,400 individuals have been hospitalized.

The Federation’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Patrick Martin, in an exclusive interview with explained how the bacterium is transmitted and its effects.

“It is transmitted via the faecal/oral route meaning the bacteria passed into the environment via the faeces and anything that is contaminated by that faeces, water, food, objects, and is put in the mouth, it then exposes the person. It is not transmitted from person to person, in other words not by sneezing, coughing and touching. One has to be in contact with the infected person’s faeces.”

The MD explained that while persons have died after being infected, the cause of death is actually dehydration, which results from the constant bouts of associated diarrhoea. As such, he explained, the Federation is engaging in ongoing series of rehearsals and revision of “our management protocol for diarrheal diseases”.

“Persons in the Federation are at risk by virtue of the fact that somebody can have bacterium in their intestine and travel here (without any symptoms) because the incubation period extends up to 2-5 days. Incubation means you can have it in you and not show any symptoms. That is what has happened in the Dominical Republic and Florida. There is, I understand, one case each and each is from a person who travelled to Haiti. So it’s in that context that I say that St. Kitts and Nevis, like all other Caribbean peoples, are on a heightened state of watchfulness and so we are revising and rehearsing our management protocol for diarrheal diseases…

“So our health personnel are addressing their minds to this type of case just in case – heaven forbid. We are actually having meetings and preparing and rehearsing and revising. We are prepared because we manage diarrhoea diseases all the time. We are rehearsing and revising because cholera is a little different in that the person can collapse and die within hours because of the amount of water they lose in the diarrhoea. So picking up that person and getting them into treatment quickly, that is what the rehearsal and revision is about…We have to rehearse because when you don’t see a disease for a long time you can lose the knowledge. When your neighbour’s house is on fire, you wet yours; that is what we are doing right now.”

Cholera, Dr. Martin expressed, existed in St. Kitts and Nevis during the colonial era but was eradicated “by good health; teaching people the basics of hygiene, putting in the infrastructure for sanitation and for piped drinkable water as opposed to having to go to a river or stream like our friends and family in Haiti have to.

Describing the outbreak as “a good wakeup call”, Dr. Martin strongly recommended that persons practice good personal hygiene and good sanitation as a precautionary measure.

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