Santiago de Cuba: Epidemiological Crisis or Child’s Play

November 25, 2012 | Print Print |

Janis Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES — This morning, from my window I heard a group of young children playing on the sidewalk shouting “cholera’s goin’ ‘round, cholera’s goin’ ‘round… I’m gonna inject you. Better wash your hands.”

Of course those kids have no real idea of the seriousness of the situation, for them it’s just a game. They’re only imitating what they see and hear every day. They reproduce in their antics the words they hear from grown-ups in their homes and at school.

They also represent what is taking place at the entryways of all public establishments, where it’s mandatory for people to wash their hands with soap and water, then with bleach, and finally wipe their feet on a mat soaked in chlorine or formaldehyde.

What has actually been happening is that for three weeks, in the city of Santiago de Cuba and those towns closest to it, public health security measures have intensified to deal with outbreaks of the diseases suffered in these communities.

The strange thing is that officially no statements have been made by medical or health care authorities or others involved with this matter.

Notwithstanding, access to all public places (schools. offices, warehouses, markets, shops, candy stores, clinics, etc.) all require people to go through that obligatory ritual of washing their hands with soap and chlorinated water, and then wiping their feet on a mat.

The same applies to the terminals when leaving or returning through various means of transport. In addition, streets and houses are being fumigated while an army of medical students are going from house to house almost daily asking if anyone has experienced fever, vomiting or diarrhea.

Public speculation is increasing as people talk about alarming numbers of cases of cholera, dengue, leptospirosis, swine fever and other infectious diseases. The truth is that these comments are based on the number of patients admitted with these diagnoses in many hospital wards authorized to attend them.

The authorities have prohibited people from raising pigs in their homes, giving the owners an ultimatum of getting them out of the city or sacrificing them. Likewise, there are now prohibitions on self-employed vendors in kiosks from selling light snacks, beverages (including soft drinks), milkshakes, coffee or anything else containing water.

People’s questions, prejudices and speculation are all growing. Officially, any report on the situation is still being kept in locked draws, but it’s undeniable that Santiago is suffering from an epidemiological crisis. Some people are saying the city should be declared in quarantine.

But secrecy is being maintained as usual, and the situation will only be made public when some foreign media source publishes the death toll.

In the meantime, in the games of innocent children, they shout “cholera’s goin’ ‘round, cholera’s goin’ ‘round… better wash your hands.”


What's your opinion?

  • Moses

    The Hollywood film industry has made a fortune from movies based on government coverups up epidemics. Unfortnately, in Cuba, this happens in real life. The Castros need to lie to the world is often justified as a means to protect the regime from its enemies. Yet how do you justfy lying to the Cuban people about something like a cholera epidemic? Surely, there is a very special place that awaits dictators after they die who have caused such unnecessary pain.

    • Luis

      Now ‘The Castros’ are responsible for the “public health security measures [made] to deal with outbreaks of the diseases suffered in these communities”, the “obligatory ritual of washing their hands with soap and chlorinated water, and then wiping their feet on a mat” on public places and transport terminals, the “army of medical students are going from house to house almost daily asking if anyone has experienced fever, vomiting or diarrhea”, the “patients admitted with these [cholera, dengue, leptospirosis, swine fever and other infectious diseases] diagnoses in many hospital wards authorized to attend them”, the “authorities have prohibited people from raising pigs in their homes, giving the owners an ultimatum of getting them out of the city or sacrificing them” and “prohibitions on self-employed vendors in kiosks from selling light snacks, beverages (including soft drinks), milkshakes, coffee or anything else containing water.”. Sure all these measures are meant to ’cause unnecessary pain’, what else? They’re evil after all.

      Looks SO much like when Katrina hit New Orleans.

      • Moses

        The issue is public awareness. “The Castros” have yet to acknowledge the latest outbreak. Cubans rely on both official and street-level communications. It would appear that despite the obvious government measures taken to staunch the spread of the epidemic, there has been no offical announcement. My in-laws in Guantanamo have only heard of the new outbreak from the people in the street (and of course my wife). If you do not wish to acknowledge that the Castros have caused suffering in Cuba, you are lying to yourself.

        • Luis

          No, your conclusion was all about ‘unnecessary pain’ and ‘suffering’, things that the people from Santiago de Cuba have been doing their best to avoid.

          I’ll tell you about ‘unecessary pain’, linking from my response to you about Cuba and Africa. Around that time, what was the US doing? Oh yes. Supporting the ousting of democratically-elected Salvador Allende in Chile and dropping ‘torture from the sky’, as I like to call Napalm, in Vietnam.

          Recently Dmitri Prieto has wrote here on HT an brilliant article about the disastrous meddling of the US in Cuba’s affairs.

          Hell, unclassified documents shows us that the CIA suggested covert terrorist attacks *against* the US in order to blame Cuba and thus make an excuse to launch an all-out invasion of the island in the early 1962, that was Operation Northwood as I recall.

          If you do not wish to acknowledge that your almighty country have caused suffering around the world, then you are lying to yourself. You said I have an ‘I hate the US’ bias, but I have my reasons for it. Hundreds, in fact – military interventions, bombardments, coups, et caterva.

          • Humberto Capiro (El Cibergues@)

            Luis! The Castro “government” in the past has suppressed news about the reality of cholera, dengue and other epidemics on the island as well as suppressed and jailed those who wanted the everyday Cuban people to know how much they were in danger! It’s an all too familiar pattern!

            Desi Mendoza Rivero, a 43-year-old doctor and father of four children, has been sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in connection with his critique of the authorities’ handling of a fever epidemic in Cuba.
            Arrested on June 25, 1997, Dr. Mendoza was tried on November 18, and currently is held in Boniato Prison, just outside Santiago de Cuba. The charge against him stemmed from statements he issued, which were later disseminated by foreign newspapers and broadcast media, regarding an epidemic of dengue fever in Santiago de Cuba which reportedly had caused several deaths. Dr. Mendoza accused the authorities of covering up the true extent of the epidemic and of not taking sufficient measures to control it. He was charged with having violated an article of the Penal Code which refers to the dissemination of “enemy propaganda" through the mass media.

            (Source: Amnesty International USA’s Freedom Writers Network, January 1998.)

            http://www.cs.utexas.edu/~vl/notes/rivero.html

          • Griffin

            Napalm is a terrible weapon indeed. It was just as terrible when used by Cuba against Angolan civilians:

            Government and Cuban troops used flame throwers, bulldozers, and planes with napalm to destroy villages in a 1.6-mile (2.6 km) wide area along the Angola-Namibia border. Only women and children passed through this area, “Castro Corridor,” because government troops had shot all males ten years of age or older to prevent them from joining the UNITA. The napalm killed cattle to feed government troops and to retaliate against UNITA sympathizers.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angolan_Civil_War

          • Griffin

            Cuban & Soviet military also helped the Ethiopian dictator Mengistu use napalm in his wars against rebel groups.

            I guess you would call these actions coups, military interventions, bombardments, & et cetera…

            http://www.acig.info/CMS/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=137&Itemid=47

          • Luis

            Nice first google result for “Cuba Napalm” try on from a TIME Magazine source written at the heat of the Cold War.. very reliable. Napalm was produced by DOW Chemical. Where/how would Cuba get it?

          • Griffin

            Luis,

            Napalm is a generic name for jellied gasoline used as an incendiary weapon. The napalm used by Cuban forces in Angola and Ethiopia was supplied the the USSR.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napalm

  • Griffin

    There are a growing number of reports of outbreaks of cholera and other infectious diseases in eastern Cuba following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. These reports cite a variety of original sources. It does sound like the authorities are reacting with strong public health measures, even to the point of locking up hospital wards for cholera cases to keep them isolated. These measures serve the dual purpose of keeping the news quiet.

    Cholera Returns to Cuba, Again

    “Despite the government’s reassurance that the Cuban cholera epidemic was contained in August, new cases of the infectious disease arose over the weekend.
    Over 200 prisoners were evacuated from the Boniato prison in the province of Santiago de Cuba due to an outbreak of cholera.
    … Holguín, one of the hardest hit after Hurricane Sandy, is reporting at least 12 new cases of cholera. The likely source of the outbreak is the Sagua River, which is transporting contaminated water into town due to heavy rainfall and extensive flooding.”

    http://www.healthmap.org/news/cholera-returns-cuba-again-111912

    Cuba: Alarm over cholera in Guantánamo

    “Guantanamo province has 206 cholera cases and 475 dengue cases, over 100 of them “code red.” Other eastern provinces, including Las Tunas, Santiago de Cuba and Holguin, are also contending with serious cholera outbreaks. The whole province of Guantanamo may be quarantined; many individual town already have been.

    In Santiago de Cuba, over 50 cholera cases are in Ambrosio Grillo Hospital; the towns of La Maya and San Luis have confirmed over 200 cases in recent weeks. In Holguin province, at least 15 cases have been mentioned by independent sources in three towns.”

    http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/h5n1/2012/11/cuba-alarm-over-cholera-in-guantánamo.html

  • Griffin

    “Linguistic Reforms”

    On this Island, the expression “the people” is one of the many pseudonyms for the powers-that-be, so you can imagine the confusion this often creates. When you read, “by the decision of a sovereign people…” or “with the participation of all the people,” you can substitute for the subject in each of these phrases “the Communist Party.” Nor can the cholera epidemic be mentioned by its seven letters, because the newspaper Granma has already coined the phrase “an illness of acute diarrhea.”