BITU calls for more action to combat spread of Chikungya

September 08, 2014:
President of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), Senator Kavan Gayle, is making an urgent call on the Ministry of Health to intensify its campaign against the spread of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus. In a release today, Senator Gayle stated that it is obvious there is still a general lack of awareness among the public, especially workers and students, on the threat of the virus to life and productivity.
He said that the BITU has taken note of the warning from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) that regional countries should brace for the full impact of the disease, as the full effect of the virus has not yet been experienced. Senator Gayle fears that with the virus spreading within the region’s 17 million people in just six months, and the warning that it could spread to as much as one-third of Jamaica’s population within a year, the Ministry cannot be simply reactive, but must begin an aggressive programme to combat the threat.
“This is essential, if we are to avoid reaching the stage where insitutions and projects have to be closed down for the Ministry to respond to the spread of the virus and health facilities from being overwhelmed by victims. “Jamaica cannot afford an epidemic at this point. We may have recorded a much smaller number of victims so far, but that is not an indication that it will remain under control, if we fail to immediately introduce a national programme to prevent the spread of the virus" he added.
The BITU is also very concerned that to date, the Ministry of Health’s main weapon against the spread of Chikungunya seems to be fogging of some communities and urging cash-starved schools to remove mosquito breeding sites. This is even more worrying the BITU pointed out, considering that the mosquito population will be growing rapidly following the recent rains which has increased the number of breeding sites. 
The BITU is also calling on the Ministry of Labour to team up with the Ministry of Health and ensure that this looming crisis is also considered within the context of occupational health and safety. This is critical the BITU pointed out, as workers, particularly those in the agricultural, construction and tourism sectors, are at a significantly greater risk of being exposed to the virus due to the nature and location of their jobs.
Senator Gayle pleaded further We are, therefore, calling on the Minister of Health, to not only give the public a full and total update on the situation when Parliament resumes on Tuesday, but to ensure that he is in a position to announce a radical, islandwide response, including increased public education, due diligence re those traveling from heavily affected areas, destruction where possible and close monitoring where not, of both natural and man made mosquito breeding sites".