Commentary: High on Ebola, low on chikungunya

BY R.D. MILLER

Since the recent outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean, four people with close connections who arrived back into the US from the Caribbean region were hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with the virus. In addition, a few medical center employees communicated that they have seen an increase in patients from the region admitted to their medical facilities.

I am not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on the television; however, based on the recent reports chikungunya has seen a significant uptick. On the other hand, an impression is being portrayed that it is under the control of these shores. What long term effect it has on people is not known at this time.

The leaders must address this issue openly and develop a solid plan before this potential storm, where soon the US and other well-traveled countries by the Caribbean people will begin to put the medical drone in the region.

The drone concept is geared to destroy anything in its path when launched. However, could you blame the US if they cut travel, and begin to set a high alert and other screening of passengers from the region?

The recent death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola at age 42, who arrived in the US, has created an intensive focus on foreign travelers from many poor and developing countries.

The recent death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola at age 42, who arrived in the US, has created an intensive focus on foreign travelers from many poor and developing countries.

Although many believed Thomas Duncan’s death while in US care would inevitably send a statement to others to not come, many people are now wondering what the color of medicine is after two dedicated Caucasian doctors who worked in Liberia contracted the virus and recovered.

One of the silent tones in the Caribbean addressing chikungunya, I believe, is not the politics of the virus, which is often seen elsewhere, for the region, it is all economics.

Here is why: Most of the region’s economic engine is tourism, and if any indication like what has been taken place in Liberia, it could be worse than the economic collapse in 2008 that left many still sneezing.
 

I begin to wonder if this is a reason report of this increasing tide seems a bit hushed up to protect the tourism industry while many locals are suffering silently. Any business model during a turbulent time is not only to ready, but willing to tell about structural problems. This approach not only builds credibility but also demonstrates a level of leadership that is lacking today on several fronts.

This is not a call for a reduction of travel to and from the region or high-level screening at airports — that would be premature at this point. On the other hand, when the local government is slow to educate people, this could be a tornado building. Therefore, questions must be asked. Along these blue waters there lies an undercurrent overflowing its banks at any time, and the lasting impact could cripple many lives, both medically and economically.

Managing these issues takes compassion and resources. Recently I saw a Facebook picture post of what appeared to be an ill person from the region who became more victimized as he was scorned from an appearance of what is believed to be the symptoms of the Ebola virus. Furthermore, if as reported few local doctors are contemplating refusing to report to work in the event of an outbreak due to the lack of medical supplies and other resources that is troubling.

In today’s society, where billions are being spent on wars and politicians re-election, it is hard to fathom that lack of resources and awareness, combined with scorn, can leave much more suffering. I hope elective officials, medical staff, and CARICOM step up its mandate to educate people and seek help through awareness because of the potential problems such as what is occurring in Liberia and other West African countries, where perception is more dangerous than an actual virus.

These islands are unique and sometimes that can be their own downfall because the uniqueness creates a form of isolation. It further limits collaboration, as all seem to be competing for a piece of the visitors’ pie. Therefore, competition mutes concerns, while marketing becomes ‚Äúthem and not our mentality.‚ÄĚ

This virus is not just an island thing, or in Third World countries as one of my less informed friends stated, he is going to stop eating chicken, and stop going to places where lots of chicken are found.

Education is key: No, you cannot get it from eating chicken, or visiting places where chickens are in abundance. The name chikungunya derives from a word in Makonde language roughly meaning that which bends up reflecting the physique of a person disabled by the disease. Many reports have noted that it was first identified in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1952

To help stop the spread of Ebola, Red Cross volunteers in Guinea are visiting communities to meet with residents face-to-face. They sensitise people to change attitudes and practices that could spread the virus like here in the village of Kolebengo, one of the most resistant villages in Gueckedou

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the first known autochthonous chikungunya cases in the Western Hemisphere occurred in October 2013 on the island of Saint Martin. By March 2014, travelers to other Caribbean islands carried it to Dominica; the British territories Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands; overseas departments of France — Guadeloupe, Martinique; and the constituent countries of the Netherlands Antilles, as well as other areas such as St Kitts and Nevis; the Dominican Republic; and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

An estimated 3.6 billion persons in 124 countries are at risk worldwide, such as the many who are exposed to dengue fever. Large outbreaks have also been seen in the Indian Ocean islands, India, and Southeast Asia, according to the Infection, Genetic, and Evolution Journal. It has also reached Asia and Europe, and North America has seen a few cases recently in Florida.

The National Institute of Health, World Health Organization, Public Health Department, and Infectious Disease, noted that chikungunya is a viral and rarely fatal disease. It is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.

The symptoms include high fever and a headache with debilitating joint pains, swelling, and stiffness of joints, muscular pain, a headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and rash that can last for several weeks. Normally within four to seven days as reported after been bitten, the symptoms appear.

The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a sick infected person during the viraemic period. Today, there are no specific antiviral treatments or vaccines available. However, it also has been reported that commonly used medications include ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, paracetamol, and aspirin.

Although there have been reported deaths, the number of related deaths is extremely low compared to Ebola; however, one should not discount it as a storm that will pass soon.

These regions have to debunk that only certain medicine can cure this outbreak, while many studies have reported there are no known cures at this time for the symptoms. It is extremely important that people take crucial preventive measures such as bite-proof long sleeves and trousers.

Purchasing untested drugs in desperation from local street vendors might not be the best approach, especially for people with limiting or no access to healthcare. More information can be found published by many health organizations.

It can be extremely difficult to track down all mosquitoes and apply chemical spray on an entire region to cut concerns and especially in poor and, rural areas with a pool of slow-flowing water that is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the lack of access to good health care only add to the problem.

Today many travelers are until now waiting on a concrete government plan on how they are handling the issue in a coördinated effort. If there is one, please post.

Although some awareness has been posted, and the governments seem now to be taking steps to mitigate the potential problem, more needs to be done. Nevertheless, can we all be stratified?

This is not to reduce any attempts, as the lack of resources can make this a difficult task. Moreover, the chance of being robbed, shot, or killed in some of these areas, is more than likely than contracting the virus.
 

As the region continues to attract visitors, it is also important that these visitors receive a disclaimer of this undercurrent taking place.

The leaders must make sure that all proactive measures are taken, and seek help and resources as needed, and stop putting on a good face on this issues with a relaxed attitude.

I am still optimistic that all can come together and weather the storm. Moms and I obtain a ticket ready to land soon to take a break from the upcoming winter.

Celebrity and criminal justice: A test of the Jamaican criminal justice system

BY R.D. Miller

The anticipated verdict was more about the Jamaican justice system, and how they would severely handle the last disposition, including the profound effect over the Caribbean in general on celebrity justice, helpless victims, and what statement it would send to the next generation, where trust is frequently ranked low as it typically relates to the criminal justice system.

The high-profile trial was bigger than the prosecutors, defense counsel, key witnesses, local law enforcement, and how they carefully gathered and preserved evidence or the apparent lack of effective communication and proper rules.

It bought back memories of the  O.J. Simpson case where he was found not guilty on a double murder charge. The criminal trial put justice in prime focus. It was a combination of how law enforcement conducted themselves, money, celebrity and class.

Although (Vybz Kartel case did not receive the same worldwide notoriety such as the O.J. Simpson case in 1995. Several in the Caribbean watched this case closely about how justice would be served.

Quietly, to many,  national case brought back memories of earlier ones in which earlier politicians, the rich and powerful people in the region often walk away free, even when the evidence points more than likely that a punishable crime has occurred.

This is not to say that all rich, famous, and powerful defendants were guilty in all more prior cases. However, as many Jamaicans waited in anxious anticipation of the verdict, the alert for civil disobedience and vigilante justice was high.

However, the Jamaica judiciary system rose to the challenge and maintained order after the verdict. What was even impressive, many became educated with the jury system, and how overall the court process works for the first and the media fulfilled a critical role.

Often in regions where poor economic conditions still have a strong hold, justice is often seen through the eyes of one’s economic status, and notoriety. In fact, as much as we would like to see a balanced system, often these trial outcomes mirror several other countries based on one’s race, sex, creed, and colour.

The mandated strategies to combat crime and national safety should not create a generation of hopelessness. It should make sure that when penal codes have violated the rule of law as written in the ‚Äúsaid constitution‚ÄĚ continue intact.


Rule of law, public service, and personal safety are extremely important, whether in a democratic or totalitarian system of government. Promoting central control is a responsive government. This concept ensures that the right people are being selected, and the departments are staffed properly to keep up integrity, and correspondingly balance the public safety mission.

Today, a majority of us however look at the criminal justice system as ‚Äúcriminal justice for the appropriate price.‚ÄĚThis is true especially when many people are being incarcerated not because of overwhelming evidence or simply probable cause is found beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is simply because they could not afford the defence needed to poke holes in government cases, and the ones who are sworn to uphold the law are being bought off from behind the bench.

The idea of celebrity justice is practically like policing and its gradual evolution that I carefully consider efficiently transferring from the boardroom into the social space. Criminal justice throughout the Caribbean region has evolved like the police force that was first developed within the context of properly maintaining a class system that protected private property in the early 18th century in Great Britain and now has become a decentralized system globally.

There is undoubtedly this verdict that will be debated for months to arrive and somewhat opens a new frontier about how this process really works. Debating the rule of law is nothing new. When other nations adopted the British common law, they also underwent a period of amendment after it had been criminally investigated in the criminal court of law.

When colonial British powers stretched throughout the Caribbean region, it not only brought slaves but a criminal justice system that set the foundation for how the government protects its people and implements justice.

Often, as official history has sufficiently shown us, only a few have benefited between haves vs. have-nots. However, this verdict, regardless of one’s position, should offer some hope.

Many on the island perhaps never understood how the judicial system works, and the moral responsibility that comes with being selected even as a juror. Now that the judgment is in, the region must begin to educate itself, from the primary schools to colleges on how the process works and expectation of a fair and balanced justice system and regardless of the defense one can afford.

The official verdict has tested the Jamaican judicial system, law enforcement rules, and what role entertainers play in the structure, and if justice can be bought. This verdict is more than just one man, and the impact will have a lasting effect.

On the other hand, if the local government does not use this opportunity to send a message, very soon key departments will no longer be capable of functioning to their fullest capacity as required to keep up public safety and a fair and balanced system.

What is sad from this verdict, despite a modernized process, it appears when a crime has been satisfactorily solved in the region, several departments stay on trial afterward, such as Vybz Kartel’s conviction.

The last analysis is that Vybz Kartel’s new jail number will not make a difference in the Jamaican stock exchange, or how many more jails will be needed or an improvement to the economic condition. On the other hand, if this criminal trend continues, soon Jamaica and more areas will have to build more prisons as one of the untold stories in the justice system and especially where more prisons are being built and privately owned.

They often need clients/customers to keep their operations going. As a result, the lives of the less fortunate among us seem to have diminished to debits and credits on a balance sheet or a ticker symbol trading in the stock markets.

The concept that entertainers were immune from the criminal justice system in Jamaica has now been proven incorrect. However, it seems the blame game continues about what went wrong, and what could have been done differently?


Inadequately training is now critical and if the body of local government that plays a vital role in unanimously upholding the law refuses to aggressively investigate critical gaps from preserving of evidence, and ensuring that officers can conduct comprehensive investigations from the emergency system to tracking criminals, to redefining agility and structural deficiencies, then the public trust will, however, continue to decline.

We typically have to be careful not to justly accuse everyone immediately if the successful outcome was not favorable to reasonable expectations. Dedicated employees might have committed some mistakes in the process, but what has taken place after the verdict is that law enforcement seems to have instantly become the focus of the debates. Going forward, the government needs to set up an independent commission to look at these issues to see if understaffing and proper training in those vital areas need to be addressed promptly.

How do we get there? The system should congregate an independent commission, which will be far from coerced-subjectivity and politics, to check any terrible lapse in compliance that has led to overall deficits across the agency that demands action.

It is important that they work together and communicate about the overall agency process and make sure continued security is adhered to and that accessibility to sensitive information is restricted to authorized users only.

Checks and balances are always needed, and although it can slow the process from hiring to implementation of human resources functions; however, urgent action is needed to discuss the dedicated staff concerns and going forward, give some level of oversight both internal and external.

I had never heard of him before this high-profile trial. However, I realize that he commands a huge following, and some might not agree with the possible outcome, also that is fine and democratic in any society. We cannot gently force anyone about who to dearly love.

On the other side, imagine the impact he could have sustained mobilizing the next generation on to better things. I am still optimistic that this time justice was in the open and not taken up in the hands of a few through retaliation.