By TOM GODFREY
Members of the Jamaican community have been working feverishly in many cities to raise funds to purchase protective Ebola suits and mosquito nets to protect their loved ones at home.
Eight specialized thermometers were purchased by the community in Toronto and sent to Jamaica last week for use at the nation’s two major airports to help detect incoming travellers who may have been exposed to the chikungunya or Ebola viruses.
Members of the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation (JDCF) and other groups have once again answered a call for help as their country protects its borders and safety of its citizens.
Kingsley Gilliam, the JDCF Director of Social Services and Health, has been a point man in helping to fundraise and obtain the gear to send to Jamaica. He said some items are hard to come by due to high demands from other countries.
“There is a huge demand for Ebola suits and we are working with supplier to get some,” he said. “Many countries have been stockpiling them.”
Another shipment of 10 thermometers was sent to the Caribbean nation last week by the Jamaican community in New York City and more are following from Britain. Jamaicans are a proud people and regularly rally behind their homeland in times of need.
The threat of chikungunya is real and Gilliam said Jamaicans are being sickened by the virus every day, even though some health officials believe the outbreak may have peaked.
The mosquito nets are sorely needed to prevent the spread of the virus, which is caused from being bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that comes out during the daytime.
The outbreak led to a State of Emergency being declared last month after thousands of people fell ill with the flu-like virus that causes fever and swollen joints that can last for about a week.
Gilliam said the nets will prevent more people from falling ill in rural areas.
“Many Jamaicans are still suffering from the virus,” he said. “The need of help is still as great as before.”
To curb the spread, members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) have been cleaning drains in rural areas to stop the breeding of mosquitoes.
The virus, also called ChikV, has also shut down some courts and officials estimate the economy has lost more than $30 million from a lack of productivity.
“We are still soliciting funds to purchase the much-needed supplies,” said Gilliam. “We have to help all those who require care on the island.”
Canada issued a travel alert last month warning people visiting the Caribbean to protect themselves from mosquito bites. More than 200 Canadians and hundreds of U.S. citizens have been infected by the virus after returning from Jamaica.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is urging travellers to consult a health-care provider or visit a travel-health clinic, at least six weeks before going to the Caribbean.
There is no vaccine or treatment to fight the virus, but the World Health Organization (WHO) said most patients recover fully.
The disease has spread throughout the region since surfacing in St. Martin in 2013, with more than 800,000 suspected cases in the Caribbean reported.
According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), there are 3,745 suspected cases in Dominica and 2,826 in Grenada.
Keep in mind many people do not visit a doctor or hospital when they get sick.
PAHO said the U.S. Virgin Islands had 993 suspected cases while there were 709 in Jamaica; 329 in St. Maarten; 214 in St. Vincent & the Grenadines and 31 in St. Lucia.
Some 1,249 were reported in Antigua & Barbuda and 1,060 in Saint Barthélemy.
Gilliam vows the community fundraising won’t slow down until all the gear has been obtained and their families at home are safe.
Donations can be made to the JDCF Public Health Emergency Fund at any branch of Scotiabank. The account number is 50062 00381 13.