No guar­an­tees that deadly out­break will not re­cur!

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Erica Virtue Se­nior Gleaner Writer

THE UNIVER­SITY Hos­pi­tal of the West Indies (UHWI) has taken steps to pre­vent the out­break of in­fec­tious dis­eases such as kleb­siella and ser­ra­tia which killed sev­eral preterm ba­bies, but there are no ab­so­lute guar­an­tees that re­cur­rences will not take more lives.

Re­ports of the out­break led to is­land­wide panic and calls for the res­ig­na­tion of then health min­is­ter Dr Fenton Fer­gu­son. The new health min­is­ter, Dr Christo­pher Tufton, would also face a back­lash from a sim­i­lar bac­te­rial in­fec­tion out­break early in his ten­ure.

Head of the Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy and In­fec­tion Con­trol Unit at the UHWI, con­sul­tant med­i­cal mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist Dr Ali­son Ni­chol­son, said it was im­pos­si­ble to give guar­an­tees that such out­breaks would not oc­cur from time to time, but the hos­pi­tal was tak­ing all steps to keep them at min­i­mum.


Speak­ing at a Gleaner Ed­i­tors’ Fo­rum. last week, she said as part of the new thrust of the hos­pi­tal, it is hoped that im­proved di­ag­nos­tic ser­vices would min­imise in­fec­tion-con­trol prob­lems.

“We can’t ever tell you that we will not have an­other out­break. It’s not pos­si­ble. We can’t guar­an­tee that be­cause germs are ev­ery­where and you have trans­mis­sion of in­fec­tions very eas­ily. Per­haps the most com­mon way is by hands,” Ni­chol­son said in re­sponse to ques­tions posed by re­porters.

Ac­cord­ing to her, there are good and bad mi­crobes – dis­ease-caus­ing mi­cro-or­gan­isms.

“You can’t erad­i­cate mi­crobes, be­lieve it or not. Although they cause dis­eases they are also good for some­thing. They have their roles and so you can’t erad­i­cate them. So what you do in a health care set­ting is to iden­tify the prob­lem or­gan­ism and put in place all that you need to keep these to a min­i­mum. And even when you think you have kept them to a min­i­mum, they will ap­pear,” she ex­plained.

Among the dis­eases that did not an­nounce them­selves were those that led to the crip­pling in­fec­tions which re­sulted in thou­sands of Ja­maicans af­flicted with the chikun­gunya (chik-V) in 2010-2011 and the Zika virus, which led to thou­sands more af­fected in 20162017.


Dr Ali­son Ni­chol­son, con­sul­tant med­i­cal mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist at the Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal of the West Indies, makes a point dur­ing an Ed­i­tors’ Fo­rum at The Gleaner, North Street, on Tues­day, June 13.

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