(This column was first published in the Amandala issue of Sunday, October 1, 1995)
On the wings of Aedes, infrastructure is revisited …
The recent outbreak of Hemorrhagic Dengue Fever in Salvador has resulted in a convening of the Central American health authorities to confine this epidemic. In Belize our health authorities have initiated their campaign. It is to be hoped that it will be as successful as the ongoing ones against Cholera and Malaria.
Aedes aegypti, the common urban vector, usually breeds only in and near human habitations, rests and feds only in the house and is primarily attracted to humans. It is a daylight and twilight feeder. These qualities make it an ideal epidemic vector. Multiple cases occur within a house and daytime visitors carry the infection to other domiciles, where another group of mosquitoes acquire the infection.
The Dengue virus is frequently transported over great distances when infected mosquitoes are carried by land, sea and air vehicles, or when infected travelers carry it during the incubation period.
On reflecting on this Dengue campaign, and that for Malaria and Cholera, one is led to revisit the ongoing Infrastructure Project to review it from a health perspective.
The purported cost is projected to be $56,000,000.00 on completion. It is suggested that we ask the World Bank for another $56,000,000.00, interest free, for another 20 years to ensure the following:
(1) That the hydraulic systems to be installed to clean the drains will all function simultaneously, that at no time will there be any section of the City’s drains remaining stagnant for any period of time.
(2) That insecticides will be available at all times to the health authorities to control not only Aedes, which is also the vector for Yellow Fever, but also Anopheles, vector for Malaria.
(3) Enough rat poison to kill the rats which will take up residence in the drains, and mechanisms to rid the city of their stench. This measure would protect us against any possibility of an epidemic of Bubonic Plague, Leptospirosis and Typhus.
(4) A flood control program to ensure that when the City streets are flooded, we do not have to walk or drive through knee-high water to get to our work places and homes.
(5) Emplacement of a modern sewage disposal unit to replace the present cesspool.
(6) Installation of a modern incinerator plant to burn our garbage, rendering obsolete the garbage dump now extant.
(7) Resolution of the paradox which exists: on the one hand we have mangrove swamps bordering the city on the West and North, the breeding ground of snakes etc.; on the other hand we have a statute that forbids the cutting down of the mangrove, in the name of conservation.
(8) That funding be available to expand our health services in terms of personnel, training and salaries to enable them to effectively contain any outbreak of these arborviruses. (In fact an immediate start can be made by asking the environmentalists and ecologists to fund a freshman nursing class this year.)
(9) Money to expand and upgrade our water treatment plant and its distribution system to ensure continued pure water in times of flooding, for us Belize City residents.
(10) Money to fumigate buses, trucks, cars, and aeroplanes entering our country.
As mentioned earlier, these viruses do not recognize countries; they will infest the President (Prime Minister) and the peasant, the rich and the poor, the smart and the stupid, the Christian and the atheist, white, black, Hispanics, Orientals, tourists and natives, soldiers and civilians.
The revisit to the Infrastructure Project has thus revealed a host of lethal potentialities. This project should be restructured to prevent their becoming deadly realities.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”