No Cause for Concern at Old Cholera Cemetery – CMO

Photo: Rudranath Fraser Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton (left), converses with National Epidemiologist, Dr. Karen Webster Kerr, at a town hall meeting to discuss concerns surrounding development on the old cholera cemetery in St. Andrew, at the Mayfair Hotel in St. Andrew, on December 21.

Story Highlights

  • Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Winston De La Haye, says there is no medical cause for concern regarding the proposed commercial development on lands at the old cholera cemetery in St Andrew.
  • Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration and even death, if untreated. It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.
  • The Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) has given approval for the development of the land after receiving formal advice from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Ministry of Health.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Winston De La Haye, says there is no medical cause for concern regarding the proposed commercial development on lands at the old cholera cemetery in St Andrew.

The privately owned land, located at Waterloo and West Kings House roads, is where victims of an 1860 cholera outbreak are buried.

“We have done extensive research and we have established, absolutely on medical grounds, that there is no reason for concern, based on the scientific evidence available internationally. Even if they went 2,000 feet down, there is absolutely no cause for concern on medical grounds,” he said.

Dr. De La Haye gave the assurance while responding to questions at a town hall meeting to discuss concerns surrounding development on the cholera cemetery. He was among several health officials at the meeting, held at the Mayfair Hotel in Kingston on December 20.

Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration and even death, if untreated. It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.

National Epidemiologist, Dr. Karen Webster-Kerr, informed that it is not possible to contract the disease from a cemetery that is more than 150 years old, as the disease does not persist in the environment for long periods.

“In the contaminated environment such as in soil, it lasts up to a week, in well water, about 24 days. There may be a dormant phase found in aquatic life, which is the longest-living one, and the maximum time is about 700 days, that is about two years,” she said.

However, she is encouraging Jamaicans to be vigilant against the disease as there are cases in the Americas and the Caribbean.

 

Dr. Webster-Kerr said there is heightened surveillance for the disease in the country’s health centres and hospitals. “It is a class-one disease and has to be reported on suspicion,” she said.

In the meantime, Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, informed that many cholera cemeteries across the island have been transformed into commercial and residential developments.

He said the meeting was held from a health perspective to clarify the issue and to allow for a conversation to take place.

For his part, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz, said there has been substantial development on areas that were then the cholera cemetery.

“Without any reservation, the planning agencies that fall under my Ministry sought clearance and clarification from the Ministry of Health prior to any approvals that were given for this particular (land),” he said.

He informed that the proposed development on the land is for a two-storey commercial building consisting of a restaurant, bistro dining, pharmacy, supermarket, retail and office space, including rest rooms.

The Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) has given approval for the development of the land after receiving formal advice from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Ministry of Health.

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