NASSAU, Bahamas: Health authorities here have been able to prevent the spread of cholera, after confirming that an illegal immigrant had the potentially deadly infection, Minister of Health Dr. Hubert Minnis has said.
Dr. Minnis confirmed that the Carmichael Road Detention Centre was being sanitized and some of the immigrants who had been housed at the facility were given medication as a preventative measure.
The others were deported, including the immigrant with the confirmed case of cholera who entered the country aboard a vessel that was detained by the Defence Force.
“One was determined to be ill and cholera suspected. The individual is no longer in the country,” Minnis said.
“Because (he) would have been in certain facilities like the detention centre, we would have had to empty the centre and subsequently do the necessary anti-cholera treatment to cure the place,” he said. “From day one we suspected one of the individuals had cholera.”
The cholera test was sent to Trinidad and Tobago, where the Pan American Health Organization-certified laboratory facility for the region is located.
“Only that one individual, to our knowledge, had cholera and he was treated appropriately,” Minnis said.
“At no time was he within the community, so the community would not have been at risk. Once we manage the facility according to international regulations … we would have no problem opening it,” he added.
Minnis said that all of the detainees were screened and given preventative medication to ensure that there was no possibility for them to become infected.
“All individuals on the vessel would have been given prophylactic treatment. The vessel would have undergone the same anti-cholera treatment as the detention centre.”
When asked about the kind of devastation a cholera outbreak could have on The Bahamas, the minister gave an example of a case in Peru.
“In 1992 there was a cholera case in Peru, one case, and Peru’s tourism industry suffered devastation,” he said. “It lost over $500 million. Cholera can be very devastating.”
Cholera, which is normally easy to treat and can be prevented, can also be deadly. It is a bacterial infection that is spread through water and food (mainly shellfish).
The infection caused a major crisis in Haiti over the past year. More than 420,000 people in and around Port-au-Prince were impacted during an outbreak in which more than 6,000 people died.
“You don’t take chances when it comes to cholera,” Minnis said.