CMO warns against health complacency


Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, says countries will have to pay more attention to protecting their borders against health threats, with the emergence of new diseases and the resurfacing of others previously considered eradicated.
She was speaking at the opening of the Faculty of Medical Sciences’ Annual Research Conference and Workshop, at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Wednesday (November 10). The main topic of discussion was ‘Infectious Diseases: Old Foes, New Enemies and Future Threats’.
Dr. Campbell-Forrester noted that an outbreak in a country can affect trade as well as travel, whereby “reports of one case in a country where you have had no cases in a long time, can turn your industry upside down”.
Recalling her first encounter with malaria, she described its recent reappearance in the island as “frightening”, as the disease was last seen in Jamaica in 1965.
“It reminded us that we can never ever let down our guard. We always have to be very alert as to what is happening on the global landscape and the local landscape,” she said.
The CMO noted that diseases, such as cholera, eradicated from Jamaica since 1852 are, once again, real threats with an outbreak in Haiti, which is in close proximity to Jamaica.
In addition to the movement of persons from country to country, Dr. Campbell-Forrester noted that, climate change was also becoming a significant factor “in the emergence of old foes and the new threats that face us”. She gave as example the recent drought, which resulted in an outbreak of Dengue fever, as well as gastroenteritis.
Also speaking at the conference, Disease Prevention and Control Advisor at the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr. Jean Marie Rwangabwoba, noted that regardless of how long a country goes without an outbreak of a particular disease, it must still be prepared for one to happen at any time.
He argued that a global response, involving governments, private sector and other groups, was needed in the fight against infectious diseases.
The Conference continues until Friday (November 12), and will see 68 presentations being made by medical researchers, as well as a workshop on the theme for the conference on Friday. There will also be 15 lectures by professionals drawn from several of Jamaica’s major hospitals, the University of the West Indies and overseas institutions.

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