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Caribbean: Keeping Track of Swine Flu

Categories: Caribbean, Latin America, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Digital Activism, Health, Media & Journalism, Migration & Immigration, Travel

As concerns over the Swine Flu [1] outbreak continue to mount, Caribbean [2] bloggers are educating themselves, just in case…

In light of a Washington Post report [3] which “ominously tells us that the World Health Organization warns that we are on the verge of a global pandemic”, Guyanese blogger Imran Khan [4] is heartened by the call of a local journalist for “his colleagues in the media to pay greater attention to the swine flu situation”, but still wonders about the government's pro-activeness:

I have seen reports from Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy saying that the government is monitoring the flu virus but this is a quickly developing and changing threat and I have seen no updates since. I noted that he had warned that anyone who begins to feel ill should quickly head to the nearest medical post. Good advice I suppose but what PRECAUTIONS should people take?

I am uneasy (and I am sure thousands of others are as well) but we are not getting clear, consistent, regularly updated messages from the Ministry of Health. We are effectively fending for ourselves.

Jamaican blogger Mark Lee, blogging at Abeng News Magazine [5], is also paying attention to the WHO's warning [6], as are the folks at Barbados Free Press [7]:

We at Barbados Free Press are willing to bet that in two months time this new crisis in the travel industry will be ending. Our leaders should not only be thinking about what is to be immediately done to protect everyone, they should be planning for the recovery of our tourist industry after this swine flu passes.

BFP [8]‘s compatriot Barbados Underground [9] adds:

The medical authorities in the USA are being very negative in their forecast on how this pandemic will spread. This is not good news for the Barbados authorities, North America is a top three tourist market for Barbados.

At this point we can only hope that the Barbados government is able to galvanize all the stakeholders to treat with this matter with the seriousness it deserves.

…while Pull! Push! [10] learns from a local mainstream media report that:

‘Barbados has been placed on a swine flu virus alert’ and ‘two local samples had been sent off to the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) in Trinidad and Tobago to be tested for the virus.’

As if to put Barbadians’ minds at ease, Keltruth Corp. [11] posts a link to a website [12] that is tracking existing cases of the virus on a world map:

So far, Florida, the West Indies, Africa and Asia are in the clear.

This has not stopped Belizean bloggers from being concerned. Lee Vanderwalker [13], an artist/blogger who divides her time between her house in Belize and her studio in Mexico, is right in the thick of things:

I'm not high risk since I hardly ever leave the house anyway and I promised myself when I moved to Mexico to not stick my fingers in my mouth. I am most concerned with Belize closing its border with Mexico, that would really mess things up.

So I´m making preparations for a long quarantine, stocking up on food and medicine and hunkering down. My gut feeling is that as usual the media overblows everything and that its not as bad a they make it seem, but on the other hand…

Belizean [14] reports that the country's government “reacted to the threat posed by the Swine Flu Virus and has today ordered the closure of major public events including the National Agricultural and Trade Show which was to have started tomorrow 1st May”, adding:

The closure of the National Agricultural and Trade Show (NATS) is unprecedented. The postponement of the annual general meeting of the Holy Redeemer Credit Union and several other weekend events planned for a long Labour Day weekend have flummoxed most Belizeans.

Over in Cuba, Generation Y [15] questions the decision to continue with planned May 1st celebrations [16]:

My experience with colds and flu-like illnesses tells me that a huge mass of people is the scenario most conducive to their spread. The announced measures should include, for the minimum protection, the postponement or cancellation of the festivities for International Workers’ Day. I don’t want to create unnecessary alarm. I don’t know anyone who is infected and an official statement has been released saying that there are no recorded cases of this disease, but remember they told us the same thing for a long time about AIDS, before finally confessing that it had entered Cuba, not to mention keeping secret the number of dengue fever cases each year.

With all humility, I ask the Cuban government to re-think the idea of bringing together thousands of people at this time. Please, show less concern about the spectacle and more protection for the citizenry.

Letters from Grenada [17], meanwhile, cannot help but notice that:

Fewer than 200 people have contracted swine flu, and everyone gets mask-happy. Meanwhile, MILLIONS have died of AIDS, yet some people still don’t use condoms.

I’m not saying swine flu isn’t real.

But it is a fact that masks do not prevent transmission. I also believe that mass hysteria never ever helps. Example: Once upon a time, people believed in witches. So they hung/burned/drowned these alleged witches. Also, their cats. Then the rat and flea populations exploded. Hello, bubonic plague.

So, just in case, Cuban diaspora blogger Sunrise in Havana [18] posts a list of handy tips to help avoid contracting the flu “without dangerous drugs or vaccinations”:

I have not caught a flu in over two decades, and you can avoid it too, without getting vaccinated, by following these simple guidelines, which will keep your immune system in optimal working order so that you're far less likely to acquire the infection to begin with.

The thumbnail image [19] used in this post, “pigs_crop”, is by johnmuk [20], used under a Creative Commons license [21]. Visit johnmuk's flickr photostream [20].